When you live in an area where the temperatures can drop very low and the weather can be unpredictable, caring for your horse requires a few tasks. There are several daily practices you will need to implement throughout the winter months to ensure that your horse stays healthy, fit and happy. Here are 5 different tasks you may want to put into place this winter.
#1: Exercise Your Horse
Exercise and keeping your horse active is very important during the winter months. To keep their bodies happy and healthy they need to be active daily. To exercise them in the colder weather, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. First, don’t force them into too much exercise too quickly in the cold; it will not only shock their system but will also make their breathing more difficult. You can do this by beginning to exercise them outside for short periods of time, and gradually increasing it. If your horse has to breathe hard, then their upper respiratory system does not have enough time to warm and hydrate the air before it gets into their lower respiratory system. If cold and dry air enters the respiratory system it can not only impact their breathing but also their immune response to pathogens in airways.
#2: Check Your Horse
To keep your horse as healthy as possible, you will need to check their bodies daily for any wounds or mud fever. First, when you check their body you will want to check their vitals such as their temperature, respiratory rate, and pulse to ensure the basics are intact. Then you will want to check their body for any physical signs of injury, such as scrapes or lesions. Mud fever, also known as scratches or pastern dermatitis, is a group of diseases that cause irritation and dermatitis in the lower limbs. This disease is often caused by a mixture of bacteria, typically Dermatophilus congolensis as well as Staphylococcus spp.
It often starts with small red ulcers on the skin in the plantar pastern region of the legs. The lesions then develop some scaling with crust, hair loss, edema, oozing and the release of malodorous exudate.
If you find any bacterial debris on your horse, it is important to remove it. We suggest giving our Map Skin Shampoo a try. It is formulated to help remove crusts and bacterial debris on your horse is all-natural and gently aids in healing.
#3: Hydrate Your Horse
Once you get to your barn in the morning, be sure to check their water. An iced trough might mean they haven’t had water in a while. Horses require a lot of water, especially in the winter. This is due to the increase in hay intake needed to produce more body heat to stay warm. Hay requires enough water to be properly digested. Without the right amount of hydration, horses are more prone to colic, more specifically impactions caused by limited mobility in the digestive tract.
The best way to prevent this is to ensure your horse has access to clean, defrosted water 24/7. Horses will not work through frozen water to gain access. There are many different ways this can be done, from tank de-icers to saltwater jugs that bob and keep the water moving.
#4: Clean Your Horse
Keeping your horse clean through the winter not only keeps them looking their best, but is also essential for their health. It is important to remove blankets regularly to thoroughly brush them, so that dirt, dust, and mud build-up are removed. If left unaddressed, a dirty coat could lead to bacterial and fungal infections on your horse's body. You should also be sure to comb through the mane and tail regularly with a detangling spray to fight knots and snags. This will prevent any dryness or breakage. Another tip is to spritz your horse with waterless bath products to keep them fresh and clean since a bath might not always be the best option in colder months. But sometimes you may find that your horse needs a good old fashioned bath. We all know that it won’t be fun for you or them, but it is necessary. If you find yourself in need of bathing your horse, make sure you plan ahead by having everything you need handy, and wash only the areas that you must.
#5: Call A VetIf you’re not sure whether you are doing an adequate job caring for your horse in the wintertime, consult a professional! Here at Equine Medical and Surgical Associates, we want the best for you and your horse. Our job is to help get your horse back to health so you can enjoy your time together. Dr. Reilly is a veterinarian with 32 years of experience and is dedicated to helping educate the owner and helping your horse improve. To contact us for more information, give us a call at (610) 436-5174!