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Horse Care Tips for Winter

Caring for horses all year round is a full-time job, and as a horse owner or horse sitter, it’s your responsibility to make sure your horses are properly cared for during all four seasons. 


Horse care during the winter doesn’t need to be difficult, that’s why we’re put together a few tips to help you look after your horses in the snow, wind, ice and rain. 

 

Do horses feel the cold?

When it’s snowing outside it’s hard to believe that your horse won’t feel the chill, however, horses only begin to feel the cold when the temperature gets below 0°c. This means that most horses will be able to withstand the cold weather in autumn and winter. 


Some horse owners rug their horses when the temperatures start to decrease, however, this can cause more harm than good as it can upset their physiological mechanisms. As a result, it’s best to avoid rugging your horse in the snow, ice, wind and other chilly environments, as their bodies are naturally designed to cope with the cold. 

 

Hydration

During the spring, summer and autumn many horses are getting most, if not all, their forage from the grass, however, in the winter this is substituted by hay. But did you know that grass is 80% water whilst hay has only 10% water! Added to the fact that horses and more likely to drink warm water than cold icy water (this goes for stabled horses as well as horses turned out). 
 
The reduced intake of water along with the increased intake of dry forage such as hay could lead to impact colic. Try these tips to help increase your horses' intake of water:

  1. Add more water than normal to their concentrate feeds.
  2. Offer warm water in a bucket once or twice a day. This could be water brought from home in a water carrier, or by adding hot water to the tap water down the yard. Don’t forget to check the temperature before offering it to your horse.
  3. Sprinkle some electrolytes on their food, which should encourage them to drink. The addition of electrolytes is beneficial in the winter months when their longer coats mean they may sweat more when exercised, which could lead to the loss of essential minerals and vitamins. Our SP revive rehydration powder is perfect for this.
  4. If you think your horse isn’t drinking anything and the water bucket is still full after a night in the stables, simply syringe warm water into their mouth.

 

Feeding

With the grass not growing in the winter and even if the ground isn't frosty or covered in snow, your horses will need some additional feed throughout the colder months. Normally a horse can cope with 2% of its body weight being fed in forage (hay/grass) daily, however, in colder weather that need can increase to 20%. As well as feeding hay in the stables, it is advantageous to feed additional hay out in the field on really chilly days. As horses are hindgut fermenters, the digesting of the forage will warm them up a bit.

 

How to care for a horse that is stabled

Try feeding your horse hay in a hay net with smaller holes than the average net, this means it takes them a little longer to eat their hay, which occupies them for longer. If you can arrange to feed them little and often throughout the day rather than one big net in the morning, this stimulates them further during the day.
 
Treat balls are a great thing, so long as your horse likes playing with them! Although try to avoid high sugar concentrate treats and go for healthier options.
 
Grooming them not only gives them some time with you and occupies their minds, But by regularly grooming the mud from their coats it returns it to a fluffier coat, giving them better warmth protection that clodded wet or muddy coats don't give. If your horse is turned out, use a brush that removes the mud but leave most of the natural oils, which is added waterproofing chill protection.
 
Read our guide on the top horse grooming tips to find out how the experts keep their horses in peak condition.
 
If your horse is stabled without turnout, due to snow or rules on the yard made to protect the grazing long term, it's important to get your horse moving at least once, if not twice a day. If you can't ride out, try and use the menage or an area outside that you can walk them in hand for 10 -15 minutes. Not only is this good for their peace of mind, but the movement also gets the blood circulating through their body and legs and prevents stiffness.
 
Another good daily activity is to get your horse gently stretching in their stables. After a groom, use some food or treats to get them bending their necks and shoulders by offering a treat out from their side and getting them to take it without moving their front legs, gradually moving the treats/food closer to their girth area. You can also stretch their legs, picking them up and stretching their front legs forward and hind legs moving them backwards and forwards. Finished with a nice gentle massage along their necks and backs, which encourages blood circulation and best of all makes them feel great and loved.

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Here at the Animal Health Company, we know just how important it is to make sure your horses are healthy and happy. That’s why we stock a range of horse care products to make the process a little bit easier. Browse our collection to find the best products to help you care for your horses this winter

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