Hubbard County U of M Extension: 8 Tips for Winter Equine Care
Remember the importance of water. Most adult horses need 10 to 12 gallons of water per day.
During the summer months, pastures contain around 80% moisture and can contribute to your horse’s water needs. In contrast, dried hay contains less than 15% moisture, so your horse will need more water in the winter.
To encourage alcohol consumption, keep your horse’s water between 45 and 65 degrees, clean drinkers regularly, make sure tank heaters are in working order, and check drinkers for electrical sensations or shocks. .
Remember that snow and ice are not adequate sources of water for horses.
Monitor food intake.
The lower critical temperature is the temperature below which a horse needs additional energy to maintain body heat. The lower critical temperature estimate for horses is 41 degrees with a summer coat and 18 degrees with a winter coat; however, young horses may reach their lower critical temperature before an adult horse.
For every degree below 18 degrees, the horse needs 1% more energy in its diet to help maintain body temperature and physical condition.
The best source of additional food energy is forage, as it is fermented by microbes that produce heat that keeps the horse warm. Other nutrient requirements do not change in cold weather.
Track body condition and body weight.
During the winter months, thick hairs can mask weight loss or gain. Body condition and weight should be assessed monthly to help track the health of the horse and any intentional or accidental changes in body condition and weight.
Body weight can be tracked using weight bands, the Healthy Horse mobile app, or math equations using various body measurements.
It is necessary to cover a horse to reduce the effects of cold or inclement weather when no shelter is available during participation periods and temperatures or wind chill drop below 5 degrees, there is a risk that the horse is wet, the horse has had its winter coat clipped, the horse is very young or very old, the horse is not cold acclimatized and / or the horse has a body condition score of three or less .
Make sure the blankets are snug, as poorly fitting blankets can cause sores and scuff marks. Remove the blanket daily, check for damage, reposition it, and make sure it stays dry.
Horses must have access to shelter. In the absence of wind and humidity, most horses tolerate temperatures of 0 degrees or slightly below. If horses have access to shelter, they can tolerate temperatures as low as -40 degrees. The researchers found that in mild winter weather, horses housed outside tended to use shelter very little. However, shelter use increased to 62% when snow and wind speeds were above 11 miles per hour.
Provide your horse with workouts or exercise as often as possible. One of the challenges of winter riding is to cool a horse with a winter coat. Using a tracer on regularly trained horses can help speed up the cooling process. However, cut hair will not grow back quickly in winter; therefore, use appropriate shelter and blankets throughout winter and early spring. Using a cooler can also help dry out a sweaty horse. Use caution when riding in deep, heavy, or wet snow to avoid tendon injuries and avoid icy areas.
Maintain regular hoof care.
Horses’ hooves usually grow more slowly in winter; however, pruning should still take place every six to 12 weeks.
Horses’ hooves are prone to “ice or snowballs” during the winter. These balls of ice or packed snow make it difficult for the horse to walk, increase the risk of slips and falls, and can put pressure on the tendons or joints.
Make sure to pluck your horse’s hooves every day, especially after heavy snow.
Keep the paddocks in working order.
Icy paddocks cause slips and falls that can lead to serious injuries. Use sand to increase traction on ice, but don’t feed horses near spilled sand, as it may accidentally ingest it.
Pure salt can speed up the melting of ice if the temperatures are not too cold. No research has documented the effect of salt on horse hooves, but to be safe, use pure salt in moderation.
Do not use a mixture of sand and salt in horse pens, as horses can accidentally ingest the sand due to their interest in salt. Also, spreading a thin layer of wood ash or fresh manure can help improve traction. Avoid using chips, hay, and straw as they tend to slide on the ice and provide little traction.
Tarah Young is an Acting Lecturer at Hubbard County University in Minnesota in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Extension. If you have any questions on this or any other topic, contact her at 732-3391. If you are interested in farming, gardening and natural resources information, consider signing up for the Hubbard County UMN Agriculture, Gardening and Natural Resources e-newsletter at z.umn.edu/HCExtensionNewsletter.