This time of year it can be tempting to wrap your horse in a toasty blanket and park him in a heated barn for the winter, but that’s not the best idea. Your horse will be much better off without that much coddling, but you shouldn’t just forget about him out in the pasture until spring, either! There is a happy medium between these two extremes.
To ensure your horse stays healthy this winter, try to avoid the following mistakes.
1. Letting his water freeze over. A horse will not stay properly hydrated if his water is frozen. Snow and ice are not a substitute for clean drinking water. Now might be a good time to consider investing in a heating device designed for horse waterers and troughs if you don’t already have one.
2. Not increasing food rations when temperatures drop. Ask your vet about how much feed your horse should receive during the winter months. Your horse will be burn more calories to stay warm in colder temperatures. Hay provides an excellent source of calories, and the energy required to digest the fiber found in hay can help keep a horse warm.
3. No exercise. Horses need exercise all year long. Using EasyCare hoof boots is a great way to continue riding during the winter months. Consider the Easyboot Trail, the Easyboot Glove, or the Old Mac’s, and install ice studs for extra traction, if necessary.
4. Keeping your horse indoors at all times. Horses will stay healthier and more fit if they are kept outdoors for the winter, or at least turned out during the day. Make sure there is a shelter available to escape the elements.
5. Over-blanketing. A horse with a natural winter coat probably does not need blanketing at all as long as he has shelter to protect him from the wind and weather. Over-blanketing can cause your horse to overheat and start sweating, which can lead to a host of health problems.
6. Lack of hoof care. You cannot forego hoof care during the winter months. Horses need regular trims every four to eight weeks, regardless of the season.
7. Throwing him out to pasture until spring. Even though it is cold outside, you still have to keep up your daily horsekeeping chores.
8. Neglecting your own health. Remember, if you’re not healthy you won’t be able to care for your horse properly. Stay warm and healthy because your horse is depending on you.
*Originally posted by Shari Murray in January, 2010.