The winter months are always challenging for us as horse owners.Check out these top horse care tips that will make yours and your horses’ life a lot easier this winter! These horse care tips will answer your questions about basic horse care: food, shelter, costs, necessary equipment.
1) Provide adequate calories
In the case of your horse, bulking for winter isn’t a joke! Horses can successfully regulate their internal body temperature in conditions between 0°C to 25°C, however, in order to do this, they exert a lot of extra energy. As your horse works to keep itself warm it will run around and shiver stimulating muscle movement that generates heat. Providing additional forage can play a big part in allowing our four-legged friends to do this successfully and therefore keep warmer in the colder months. Furthermore, the digestion process of a horse, fermentation involves billions of bacteria that live in their hindgut and a key by-product of this mechanism is heat. Consequently, the more food they digest, the more heat they can generate. Bearing this in mind, providing your horse with high quality, nutritional forage is the first step to achieving ultimate horse care.
2) Provide adequate shelter
Opting to stable a horse can put us as owners one step ahead of the ever-changing British weather and although as we know, horses can bear temperatures significantly lower than humans, it is important that when they seek warmth the opportunity is there. For horses that are, metabolically healthy, receive enough calories, develop of a good winter coat and have access to natural sheltering such as trees and shrubbery, horse field shelter may be a comfortable enough home in these colder months. However, if this is not the case, the straw bedding, feed, fresh water and protection from chilling wind and snow that stables offer can make all the difference in wintery conditions.Good horse care includes the very best feeds for your horse. If you do decide horse stabling is for you, the ideal temperature in them is not too far from that outside. Keep it fresh, properly ventilated with adequate drainage, clean and as dust-free as possible to ensure a healthy environment.The key to good horse care is being able to identify health problems and treating them promptly.
3) Using rugs
The main thing to remember about rugging, is that every horse is different. Although there is no solid answer to when to use a rug, there are tell-tale signs that you can look out for. First, check your horse’s temperature, the best place to do this is under their armpit. If this feels cool, you can be sure it’s rug-time. Remember, if your hands are freezing, it may feel warmer than it is. If you decide to turn out your horse full time you may notice your horse shivering and running around trying to generate the extra energy as we discussed in the forage section. If you’re looking to limit the growing amount of required forage, a rug can act as an alternative as it reduces the work your horse will have to do to keep warm. It’s important that if you do use a rug you quantify their feed alike, too much food may lead to excess energy which will deposit fat. Most horses don’t need rugs until temperatures dip below 10°C. Their coats act as a great insulator, the natural oils it contains repels water, preventing them from getting wet and cold, and is exceptional at holding heat. However, it’s important to consider your horse’s characteristics, if they’re older, younger, thinner or clipped they may need to be rugged sooner. Make sure you’re regularly checking under your horses’ rug for any new lumps, bumps, or changes in body condition- look out for sweating. If your horse is sweating you need to reconsider your rugging method for optimal horse care.
To ensure perfect horse care, Check out our temperature guide below for rugging throughout the year-
|Temperature||Stabled/Clipped||Stabled/Unclipped||Turned Out/Unclipped||Turned Out/ Clipped|
|15 degrees +||No Fill||Nothing||Nothing||Nothing|
|10 – 15 degrees||No Fill or Light Weight (100g)||No Fill or Nothing||Nothing||Light Weight (100g), No Fill if windy & wet or nothing|
|5 – 10 degrees||Medium Weight (250g)||Light Weight (150g)||Light Weight (100g) or Nothing||Light Weight (100g) + Neck Cover|
|0 – 4 degrees||Heavy Weight (300g)||Medium Weight (200g)||Light/Medium Weight (150g-300g) or Nothing||Medium Weight (200g) with Neck Cover|
|-10 – 0 degrees||Heavy Weight (300g-400g) with Neck Cover||Medium Weight (200g-300g) with Liner||Light or Medium Weight (150g-300g) with Neck Cover||Heavy Weight (300g-400g) with Neck Cover plus Liner|
|Below -10 degrees||Heavy Weight (300g- 500g) with Neck Cover plus Liner||Medium or Heavy Weight (300-400g) with Neck Cover||Heavy Weight (300-500g) plus Neck Cover||Heavy Weight (300-500g) plus Liner and/or Under Blanket and Hood|
4) Prepare your horse for winter riding
Cold weather, ice, and snow can face horses and owners with all kind of problems. we’ll go through a few preparation tips that can make riding in these conditions less hazardous. If riding on slippery ground, ask your farrier about shoes with ice caulks and pads, they can help prevent snowball build up and ice bruising your horses’ soles. Ice caulks can be very damaging if the horse kicks another so you may want to shoe the front hooves with chalk and leave the hinds bare but trimmed. Be sure not to skip farriers’ appointments, your horses’ hooves are a lot more prone to chipping in frigid weather. If you are finding snowballs developing on your horse, try giving the bottom of their hooves a coating of petroleum jelly.
Take into consideration the harder work your horse is having to put in during these colder spells. Slow down the working of your horse to reduce sweating, cooling down can take much longer and chilled muscles take longer to warm up. Be sure to give them plenty of time to adjust to the environment, walking on snowy, frozen and uneven ground can make their gaits feel slightly stilted until they gain confidence. Cold bits and bridles can be very uncomfortable for your horse. Prior to riding, put the bridles in your jacket and warm the bit using hands or a warm gel pack.
5) Water, not ice!
Drinking on average 30 litres a day, and potentially even more in the winter due to increased dry forage consumption, providing your horse with adequate water is a main priority. The best solution for winter watering is an automatic waterer with a heating element, or through an immersed or floating heater. Not only does this stop the water freezing but its slight warmness makes it more appealing to your horse/s. An alternative or back up to this method are heated buckets, these are especially useful for stabled horses and will prevent any winter storms that wreak havoc with your electrical systems preventing water consumption. It is vital that your horse keeps hydrated, we see an impaction colic increase during the winter months because they aren’t drinking enough.
Good horse care means providing the best possible environment, that is as safe and natural as possible for your horse. That includes providing companionship, understanding the needs of horses, and keeping their surroundings clean and well maintained.
Tips you learned or implemented for horse care?
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