Fall is in full swing, and winter is close behind! Preparing your horse in advance for weather changes is essential. Here at Equine Medical & Surgical Associates, we care about your horse's safety and health as much as you do, so read on to discover seven ways to help your horse for this upcoming winter season.
Dental care is crucial for horses of all ages, no matter the season! In particular, older and thinner horses’ teeth should have their regular check-up before the cold sets in. Some horses may have trouble chewing and could end up choking on their hay without the correct teeth care. Some horses may already have an issue with maintaining their weight during the winter months, so ensuring they can chew their food easily will help keep their weight maintenance more manageable.
Supplying Enough Water Consumption
In addition to horses eating less in the winter, they also drink less water. This can result in impaction colic. Horses actually need 8-12 gallons of water a day! A tactic to keep water consumption up is to break the ice where the water is freezing. To help your horse even more, you can simply remove the ice altogether from the tanks. To prevent freezing water, use a tank heater to warm it up and keep it between 45-65 degrees. Another helpful suggestion to encourage their drinking is to give your horse access to a salt block.
Salt is so vital to water consumption that it needs to be talked about on its own! Horses need salt to keep them from getting dehydrated. Salt is necessary just as much in the winter as in the summer. Sure it won’t be as hot in the winter, but your horse still needs salt and water to maintain its basic bodily functions. A salt block placed near them will make a horse more aware of how much they need to eat and drink.
Maintain Good Gut Health
Maintaining your horses’ gut health should be a priority 365 days a year. Without a healthy gut, horses cannot absorb the nutrients they need. Feeding them easily digestible and high-quality feed and fixing their pH balance will keep their stomach healthy all year.
Suppose your horse is older or going through a feeding transition. In that case, it may be helpful to provide them with either a prebiotic or probiotic to assist with creating healthy bacteria in the gut and feeding these bacteria.
Even though winter can impact the exercise routine of a horse, their hooves need to be cared for regularly. Although hooves do not grow as fast in the fall and winter, they can still have issues and should not be neglected. You can put horseshoes on them, but being barefoot can also allow them to gain better traction on the ice and snow. It may differ depending on the horse, so make sure to talk to your trusted farrier about what works best for your horse!
Horses already have a good winter coat that can be warm enough for them in the winter! The hair in their coat will stand up and trap the heat of their body well; it is an excellent insulator. However, thin, sick, or old horses may need extra protection in the form of a blanket. There should also be enough shelter for all horses in wet conditions. If there isn’t shelter and the horse needs to be blanketed, ensure it is waterproof. If a horse’s hair gets wet, it will lose the ability to keep heat insulated.
A well-fed horse with a proper diet is more likely to stay warm in the winter. Giving horses access to forage over the colder months is imperative to their health because it is high in fiber and helps them stay warmer. There should also be an increase in hay fed to your horse. Providing them with a couple extra pounds a day will not harm them! It is recommended that hay be increased by a couple of pounds for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.
Keeping your horse safe and comfortable during the winter is extremely important to their health and well-being. Here at Equine Medical and Surgical Associates, our job is to help get your horse back to health so you can enjoy your special time together! For more information on our products and who we are, visit our website!