Chilly winter weather means bundling up and staying indoors longer for us humans. But what does it mean for your horse? Proper winter care is essential for the health of any horse. Many horse owners, however, are confused as to what "proper care" actually means and either provide too much protection or not enough. To find the right balance, keep these five tips in mind:
1. Maintain a Constant Water Supply
Horses drink about five to 10 gallons of water a day to stay hydrated. While keeping a fresh supply for your horse was simple in the summer, it's a little trickier during the winter as the water often freezes. Because snow and ice are not good substitutes, invest in a heating device that will prevent the water from freezing.
2. Provide Open Shelter
It's easy to assume that horses would prefer being locked up in a warm, cozy barn all winter, but this is far from the truth. Shelter from the wind and rain is necessary, but healthy horses should be able to walk in and out as they please during the day. Fresh air is good for a horse's respiratory health and their natural winter coats are designed to provide warmth.
3. Keep Up Regular Exercise and Proper Nutrition
Exercise is beneficial all year long, so continue to ride your horse if possible or at least provide a big enough pasture for your horse to roam around during the day. Ashley, the buyer for our Farm and Pet Department and resident Animal Nutritionist, pasture boards her horse during the winter months, so her diet changes to hay with Purina's Strategy Healthy Edge as a supplement. Ashley says that she "really likes that this product is a lower-protein, higher-fat and fiber formula to help keep her warm because it is a highly digestible feed to provide her with the essential nutrients and it is very palatable."
4. Continue Hoof Care
If you aren't able to ride your horse regularly in the winter, that doesn't mean you should stop hoof care. Continue to trim your horse's hoof regularly (every six to 12 weeks). Daily hoof picking is also a good idea, as snow and ice on the hoof can make it difficult for your horse to walk.
5. Cover With Blanket if Necessary
Most healthy horses do not require a blanket in the winter. Horses with partially or fully clipped hair and very old or young horses, however, do need extra warmth during the colder season.Make sure the blanket is properly fitted to prevent it from causing sores and remove the blanket daily to check for infections.
With the proper care, your horse will continue to thrive even in very cold conditions. Learn more about horse care and find great grooming supplies at your local Homestead Gardens.