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Baby it's cold outside! Although horses have been surviving brutal winters for centuries, we can always make horses more comfortable throughout the winter.
Below are some tips to help your horse survive comfortably during the chilly season!
- Nutrition: As always, your number one responsibility in keeping your horse happy and healthy is adequate nutrition. During winter, forage or hay should make up the largest portion of his diet. Since horses burn calories to stay warm, a fortified supplement such as Calf-Manna can be added to his diet to help keep him at a body condition score of 5. If your horse is an easy keeper, a complete vitamin and mineral supplement such as Sho-Glo is a better choice than grain. Increasing the amount of hay fed is also suggested, as the fermentation process generates internal heat.
- Provide Warm Water: As the temperatures fall, horses will often decrease their water consumption per day. Research indicates horses prefer drinking warm water over icy water in the winter. To increase or maintain your horse's water consumption provide him with a warm water source. This can be accomplished with a bucket or tank heater, or by adding hot water twice daily with feeding. Another way to encourage drinking it to add electrolytes such as Bounce Back, to his feed or water.
- Exercise: Exercise is good for the mind and body. If weather allows, continue working your horse during the winter. Even occasional riding or lunging can help keep your horse's muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints limber. If riding is not an option, consider incorporating stretching exercises into your horse's routine. After exercise, rub your horse's muscles and joints down with a horse liniment such as Corona Lininment, to aid sore or tired muscles.
- Joint Supplementation: Feeding a joint supplement such as Rapid Flex will help ensure your horse’s body has a consistent supply of the ingredients it needs to cope with the stress of exercise and cold weather. Because joint supplements are designed to support normal joint tissues, the best time to start supplementing is BEFORE your horse starts displaying signs of joint problems.
- Horse Skin Conditions: Skin problems tend to plague horses in the winter. Keep and eye out for skin conditions such as ringworm, rain rot, and girth itch. It is best to keep a topical fungicide such as Corona Fung-A-Way on hand in case a skin condition comes into play. Click here to learn how to identify and treat the most common horse skin conditions.
- Respiratory Health: If your horse will be confined to a barn during the winter, he is at risk for respiratory problems. Heaves is the most common respiratory ailment in horses that are confined indoors and fed dusty hay. To prevent respiratory stress, soak your horses hay and turn your horse out as much as possible. Using an odor neutralizer such as Sweet PDZ can also help eliminate ammonia fumes.
Winter Paddock FootingWinter Paddock Footing:One of the most frequent horse property management questions I get at this time of year has to do with footing problems in horse paddocks - See more at: http://cs.thehorse.com/blogs/smart-horse-keeping/archive/2013/01/21/winter-paddock-footing-for-horse-properties.aspx#sthash.DWsebEYE.dpufOne of the most common winter problems is bad footing in turn out areas. Consider using coarse washed sand in your paddocks during the winter. It drains well (when thawed) and seems to be a softer surface than gravel or chipped wood which can be dangerously slippery when frozen. Because of its small particle size, when sand freezes it is a more level surface than other footing. Click here to learn more about safe paddock footing.
- Traction: Keep a good supply of shavings, sand, and kitty litter on hand to spread on icy areas. Your behind with thank you later!
- Preventative Hoof Care: Think ahead and meet with your farrier to discuss winter shoeing and trimming schedules and plans. You may want to re-consider shoeing your horse in the winter. When shoeing your horse in snowy or cold weather, he may have an increased risk of slipping and snow packing. If you must shoe your horse, consider adding a snow rim pad to help prevent snow collecting and help increase stability on ice. Click here to learn more about "winterizing" your horse's feet!
- Eliminate poopsicles: Frozen manure balls are equivalent to egg-sized rocks. If not picked up, your horse can bruise the sole of his foot to the point it is bruised so badly that it abscesses. So try to keep your paddocks clean!
Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.
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