Winter is officially here, and with a change in the weather comes a change in horse care routines. While horses can live comfortably outside year-round, there are specific requirements that need to be met during the winter to ensure a happy, healthy and comfortable living environment for your horse. Here are some things to keep in mind when caring for your horses in the winter.
Watch for Ice
Oftentimes in the colder, icier months of the year, chunks of ice will accumulate in a horse’s hooves. When the ice builds up, this causes stress on tendons, ligaments and muscles. That’s why it is imperative to monitor the ice buildup on your horse’s hooves during the winter as they will need to be removed soon after it appears.
But it’s not just the ice on your horse’s hooves you need to watch out for, it’s all ice in general. When areas in or around the barn get icy and slick, it can cause accidents and sometimes even injuries. When you notice it starting to get icy out, take precaution by sprinkling sand on or salt on the icy areas to prevent any slips.
Shelter & Blankets for Warmth
Ideally, three-sided constructed shelters provide the best ample protection for your horse from any wind, rain, snow, ice and precipitation. Trees also serve as a natural wind barrier, providing some protection as well. Stocking up on blankets during the colder months is also a necessary step to keeping your horse safe and warm.
Blanketing your horses during the winter months will keep horses warm that cannot naturally grow thicker winter coats on their own.
Hay Feeding in the Winter
Lastly, hay feeding plays a major role in winter horse care. On average, horses need to consume at least 2 percent of its body weight in forage (hay and/or pasture) to maintain its body condition. It is the digestion of fiber that will keep your horse warm. When in doubt, feeding your horse additional hay meals will ensure that they’re getting enough nutrients and fiber to keep warm.