As the leaves start to fall and winter steadily comes our way, we have to come up with a new strategy when caring for our horses that live solely outdoors. Caring for horses in cold weather brings about different challenges than summertime care, as certain considerations must be met. Here are seven tips to help you care for your horse in cold weather.
1. Keep Water Accessible
It’s so important for your horse to always have access to clean water. Many horses prefer warm water over ice water, so consider getting water bucket and trough heaters to keep water appealing and to prevent freezing. If you don’t have access to heaters, then you will have to haul water to your horses multiple times a day in sub-freezing temperatures.
2. Provide Plenty of Hay
The act of eating helps horses to burn calories, generating body heat to stay warm. Provide your horse with plenty of hay during the winter so that he can keep his temperature up without losing weight.
3. Avoid Closing Up Your Barn
While it may be tempting to close up your barn tightly during the winter to help keep it warm, avoid the temptation to do so. Ventilation is important to your horse’s health, and closing up a barn may result in respiratory issues for your horse.
4. Monitor Your Horse’s Weight
Horses can quickly lose weight during the cold winter weather, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your horse’s weight. If your horse wears blankets, then make sure to remove them on a daily basis to inspect your horse and to check his weight.
5. Change Blankets As Needed
If you opt to blanket your horse during the winter, then you will also need to change those blankets as needed. Leaving a cold, wet blanket on your horse will make it more difficult for him to keep himself warm. Additionally, leaving a heavy blanket on when the weather becomes warmer will cause the horse to sweat. Make sure that you change blankets whenever necessary.
6. Be Selective About Turnout
While maximizing turnout time is great for your horse’s health, it may be safer to keep your horse indoors on some winter days. If the footing is slick with ice or thick with deep mud, you might want to keep your horse in until conditions improve. You can always hand walk your horse or turn him out in an indoor arena so that he can stretch his legs.
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7. Minimize Hoof Snowballs
Anyone who lives in a snowy climate knows how easily snowballs can form in horses’ hooves. If you’ll be turning your horse out in a snowy pasture, consider spreading Vaseline across the bottom of his hooves, or spraying the bottom of his hooves with cooking spray – both methods help to minimize snow buildup.