Outside, the leaves are changing color and the air is growing colder as we say goodbye to the last of the summer heat. While we gather our warmest blankets and sweaters to prepare for another winter, horses welcome the chilly season. Unlike humans, horses thrive in tempera-tures as low as 30 degrees below zero, but they do need a few things to help them get through these harsh weather conditions. Here are some tips for the best way to care for your horses in winter.
1) Increased meal times
Horses are sturdy animals, so it may be a surprise that they like extreme seasonal changes, however, they do have to worry about maintaining the proper body temperature in the cold. Just like bears preparing for hibernation, horses need to put on extra fat and take in additional calories to make it through the colder months. Increasing your horses’ hay and grain rations helps them to stockpile their fat reserve. Another great way to help your horses’ build up fat is to include rice bran into their food because it is 70% fat. But be careful not to overfeed. Over-feeding can cause too much weight gain during the winter, and lead to laminitis and other health problems in the spring.
2) Enough water
The most important thing you can do for your horses in winter is to ensure they have adequate amounts of water. It is crucial for the wellbeing of your horse that you do not allow the water to freeze. Mature horses need about 10 gallons of water a day, and if the water is excessively cold (it should stay between 40 to 43 degrees) than your horse will decrease both its drinking and feed consumption. Reduced feed and water intake could lead to colic and an impacted intesti-nal tract in the horse. Although winter weather can make barn chores difficult, a few simple changes can make it more bearable. For example, an insulated box that fits over the top of your water hydrant and hose can help the water source defrost.
3) Proper Shelter
Although horses generally like the cold, they still require shelter from wind, rain, and snow. A run-in or three-sided shed that opens away from the wind patterns, allows your horses to take shelter during a rain or snowstorm while keeping its insulating hair dry and fluffed. Once the storm has passed, your horses can easily emerge and be comfortable outside again. If you have show horses with artificially short hair coats, then they require the protection of a blanket or windbreaker before being turned outside. Ensure your portable horse barn is properly ventilat-ed to reduce the risk of respiratory disease, excess moisture and condensation buildup, and di-rect drafts which can lead to stress and additional problems.
If you find the idea of building custom shelters daunting, consider quick and portable horse barns as an alternative.
4) Hoof Care
Even though you may not ride your horses in winter, their hooves still require regular upkeep as they do not stop growing. The uneven frozen ground can also crack and break hooves. If you do neglect trimming their hooves throughout winter, then they will not be capable of holding a shoe in the spring.