Horses can be hard to look after, in the winter especially. Below are some of the things to bear in mind if you are looking after a horse during the colder months.
In winter, horses need to consume up to 2% of their body weight per day to make sure they have enough body fat to be warm. Horses burn calories to keep themselves warm, and so their feed will need to be increased in the winter. They will need at least 25-30 pounds of grass or hay to graze on so that they can stay warm throughout the day. You may think that there is enough grass in the field but most times there is not, and you will need to put extra hay down in the field. When giving horses their hard feed in winter, you need to consider their body type and what exercise levels your horse is doing to determine the quantity.
Horses in winter need to drink plenty of water to make sure they stay hydrated. They will be eating a lot of hay which is very dry, if you are worried, you can always soak the hay. Horses need a constant supply of water and in winter it may ice over, you need to be checking the water buckets/troughs at least twice a day. Study shows that only providing warm water will help horses drink a lot more, compared to icy water. Horses also need a lot of salt in the winter therefore you may want to put a salt block in the shelter, in the field or in your horses stable. Always make sure that you check the water pipes on the yard to make sure they are not frozen.
Horses should always have shelter options, whether this be trees or a built shelter. Always bear in mind that if you have several horses, you need to make sure that they all have access to shelter.
Whether or not your horse needs a rug depends on your horse’s coat and shelter. If you need to apply a rug to your horse, always apply it to a clean and dry horse. You also need to make sure that the weight of the rug is suitable for the weather. You may need a thicker/waterproof rug if it starts to rain/freeze. You need to make sure that if your horse gets wet in winter you change the rug as soon as you notice it, as otherwise this can give your horse a chill. Always make sure that your horse’s rug fits correctly and check for rub marks around the shoulders and the withers.
Your horse may need some supplements in the winter to replace what is lost from eating grass in the warmer months. If your horse loses weight in the winter, then this isn’t something to panic about as they are making room for the spring grass when this comes through. If you are worried, then always speak to your vet.
Just like humans, horses still need to exercise throughout the winter. When the conditions are ok, keep riding your horse, however if the weather is severe let your horse roam in a paddock if safe to do so. If you ride your horse in winter, make sure your horse does not work up a sweat, otherwise it is easier for your horse to catch a chill. When riding your horse in the winter also make sure that they do not get ice balls in their hooves as this can cause a lot of problems.
Horses in winter like to churn up the field and like to stand by the gate, you will need to have bark or another absorbent material to go near the gate. Also make sure that there is the correct amount of drainage so that the horses don’t get bogged down whilst waiting by the gate to come in. Also make sure that you rest and rotate the paddocks. When it comes to springtime, there needs to be enough grass, resting and rotating the paddocks helps with this too. If you only have one paddock, section it off if it is big enough to do so, this can then be used for springtime.
Always keep a close eye on your horse/horses during the cold weather. Check their body weight, how much they are eating and always give them options for shelter. If you are mindful and take the correct precautions, you and your horse/horses will be happy and healthy throughout the winter!