Tips for Caring for Your Horse During the Winter Months

girl feeding horses in the farm in summer day

As we enter the coldest season of the year, it’s important to prepare not only ourselves but our animals as well. Horses grow longer hair and have a fat layer to help them stay warm, but owners can also help ensure a healthy winter by understanding what sort of care their equine companions require.

When days begin to get shorter and temperatures colder, a horse will begin to grow a longer coat. This additional hair acts as insulation from the chill. However, if the hair becomes exceedingly wet and matted, it will not serve its purpose. Therefore, owners should monitor the horse’s coat closely to be sure it stays clean and dry. Snow is not so much of a problem, but rain and sleet can cause unwanted dampness. To avoid this precipitation and extreme temperatures, shelter should be provided. A horse can be housed in a barn if the heating and ventilation are sufficient, but horse run in sheds are also a great choice. According to Farming Magazine, sheds should be placed with the opening facing the opposite direction from which wind normally blows. In addition to sheltering to avoid wet and extreme weather, owners should monitor the horse for skin conditions or other abnormalities that might cause hair loss. Keeping close watch on the horse’s coat can help make the winter months both warm and healthy for your animal. 

Adequate food and water are also a necessity for horses during winter. Extra calories are needed to create heat and maintain body temperature; so, if the horse is getting relatively the same amount of exercise as in warmer months, his feed may need to be increased. Alternatively, feeding too much can cause health problems and other unwanted issues. It’s important for owners to know their horses and to monitor their weight closely during this time of year. Water is also a priority, and snow and ice are not acceptable sources for it. The University of Minnesota Extension encourages horse owners to provide water heated to between 45 and 65 degrees. Horses generally prefer this, and because winter feed often contains less moisture, it is important to promote water consumption. Horses need at least 10 to 12 gallons of water daily.

It’s also important for horses to continue to receive plenty of exercise during the winter months. Like humans, horses’ muscles can suffer when not used regularly. Although temperatures may be cold, owners need to make sure they are spending enough time with their animals and that they are able to burn off some energy with exercise. 

Finally, it is important to continue a horse’s hoof care during the winter. Horses who will be working outdoors in slippery conditions can be fitted with winter shoes to reduce sliding. Hoof hair will still need to be clipped regularly as well. In addition, hooves are notorious for collecting snow and ice, so cleaning them regularly is important. 

The most important thing to remember during the winter is that your horses still need your time and attention. Make sure they have adequate shelter, food, and water. Exercise them regularly, and keep up with their maintenance. By following these tips and monitoring your horses closely for any signs of discomfort, you can make the winter months go by smoothly for your horses as well as yourself.


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