New year, same horse care practices! As seasons come and go, we must adjust to the needs of our older horses and adequately prepare them for upcoming conditions. As we progress into 2023, we approach colder weather and potential winter storms. Proper care for your horse is so critical during this time. Adjustments in care are necessary for all horses. However, the cold weather affects seniors more than young equines.
Elder equines should receive an examination at least twice a year. That said, it may be time to schedule your horse’s checkup! A winter checkup will help horse owners identify any specific concerns or needs for their horses in the upcoming months. The veterinarian will perform a routine physical to check the horse’s heart, lungs, eyes, mouth, and coat. Additionally, the veterinarian will check for any signs of dental problems, joint/muscle pain, and internal parasites, all of which may contribute to weight loss. Avoiding weight loss in the winter months should be a priority for all horses, as sufficient weight helps them to maintain internal temperatures and stay healthy.
In addition to an examination, it is essential to identify and concentrate on your horse's basic needs. To do so, we have created a checklist to help you prepare your elder horse for the upcoming months. Read on to learn more!
Horses instinctually look for shelter and warmth when conditions get rough. It is important that this space is large enough for all your horses and allows them to come and go as they please. This shelter will help to protect your horses from precipitation and bitter winds. Along with protection, some horses benefit from blankets to keep them warm. A few good ways to spot if your horse is cold is if they shiver, tuck their tail between their legs, or are cold to the touch. A blanket is an excellent option if you sense your horse is cold. However, make sure to keep the blanket and your horse dry, and regularly groom your horse to avoid chafing.
Food and Water Consumption
Proper nutrition is a primary factor in maintaining your horse's body temperature throughout winter. Horses are advised to eat around 1-2% of their body weight daily. Slightly increasing this percentage during the winter months (by about 0.5-1%) may help your horse stay warm. However, make sure your horse does not become overweight.
Water consumption is another vital part of keeping your horse healthy throughout the winter. Despite common belief, hydration is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer! Water helps horses digest their food and regulate their body temperature. Water consumption also helps reduce the risk of impaction colic or abdominal pain.
Keeping your horse’s food and water sources clean and free from ice or contaminants such as mold, dirt, manure, etc., is imperative. Water buckets should be emptied and rinsed daily, and water troughs should be cleaned at least every other week. These clean measures will decrease the chances of debris, algae, or other dangerous substances affecting your horse.
Senior equines require exercise to maintain good physical and mental health. Exercise is essential year-round. However, it is crucial to monitor activity in the winter because of potentially dangerous conditions such as ice and snow. Before you walk or ride your horse, be sure to assess the ground conditions. Icy, slippery, or rough grounds can lead your horse, and possibly yourself, to injury. If the terrain is safe enough for a ride, give your horse sufficient time to warm up and cool down their muscles before and after exercise. In addition, regularly check your horse’s hoof health. Remove any unwanted snow/ice balls, and watch your horse closely for any signs of pain or injury.
Proper care for senior equines should be prioritized, especially during the winter months. At Ryerss, our business is caring for aged, abused, or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture. The horses at Ryerss are never worked, go to auction, or are used for experiments. They simply spend their days grazing and enjoying life with their friends as part of the herd. Learn more about Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines and our mission on our website and if you love horses, consider becoming a volunteer today. Our residents always have room in their hearts for new visitors!