As the winter season begins, it is important to maintain your horse’s overall health and well-being. As the weather starts to drastically change to snow and ice, it may be a good idea to perform a check up on your horse’s health. It is also important to make sure that you have the appropriate supplies to support your horse throughout these cold winter months. We have compiled a checklist of things to consider as the winter season continues on, in order to properly care for your horse.
Check the Water Bucket
When the temperature goes below freezing, it is common that your horse’s water bucket may freeze over. It is important to observe and monitor your horse’s water supply, so they will never be restricted from drinking water. The average horse can drink 10 gallons of water per day, so it is very important that they have access to a fresh water supply. Something handy to consider purchasing is a heated water bucket! Heated water buckets can hold up to 20 quarts of water, and are safe for your horse with an anti-chew cord. In order to use these heated water buckets you will need access to an electrical power source. This may be a smart investment to support your horse throughout the winter!
Make Sure your Horse is Eating Well
As the winter snow falls down and hardens the lush green fields, it is less likely that your horse will have the opportunity to graze in the next few months. Most likely, your horse’s main food supply throughout the winter is hay or grain. It is important to make sure that your horse is receiving enough nutrients to support their internal body functions to withstand the cold. When transitioning your horse into a winter diet, it is crucial that you gradually introduce and wean off this new diet. This is because any rapid change in diet may upset your horse’s digestive system, which can lead to colic. Make sure that your horse receives all of their essential nutrients to function this winter!
Support Joint Health
Horses with arthritis may experience increased joint pain and stiffness during the cold months of the year. If you start to notice that your horse cannot keep up with their usual activities, has swollen joints, stiffness, and shortened stride, they may be suffering from arthritis. To support and loosen up your horse’s joints, you can provide them with a joint health supplement. If you don’t have arthritis medication already, your horse can be prescribed medication from your veterinarian to reduce the pain and further damage of arthritis. Look out for these signs and symptoms of arthritis this winter to keep your horse happy and healthy.
Provide Access to Fresh Air
Providing your horse with daily fresh air will support the overall health of their respiratory system. This winter, if your horse is spending most of their time in a barn or stall, make sure that the area is properly ventilated. Dusty air or improper ventilation can harm your horse’s respiratory and immune systems. Even though the cold temperatures of winter are hard to bear, make sure that your horse is provided with clean air during both their active and stagnant times.
Provide Proper Shelter and Blankets
While your horse needs fresh air, it is also important to protect them from the elements of winter. If your horse is in freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time, they run the risk of frostbite. Shelter should provide your horse with warmth, yet proper ventilation to support internal and external health. Blanketing is important while your horse is outside. Blankets should be kept dry and never wet. Make sure to blanket your horse after December, when they have already developed a natural winter coat of fur to support underneath.
Provide Adequate Dental Care
While your horse will be feeding on primarily hay and grain during the winter months, it is important to perform a dental check-up before the winter begins. Horses tend to naturally form sharp ridges on the outside of their teeth, which can lead to ulcers and improper food chewing. This can potentially lead to intestine issues or choking. Hay is harder for horses to chew and digest than grass from grazing. Since hay is a major source of food in the winter, it is a good idea to have a dental check during these cold times.
Beware of Colic
You should also keep an eye out for colic symptoms in your horse during the winter. olic occurs in the digestive system of your horse, when the colon is blocked, and causes abdominal pain. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of colic in your horse - such as looking at their side, laying down/rolling, abnormal bowel movements, etc. There is a heightened risk of colic during the winter season due to changes in diet. It is important to look out for any signs of this potentially fatal disease.
It is important to make sure you are aware and prepared for any health issues that could arise in your horse this winter. There are many preventative measures that can be taken to ensure that you and your horse have a great winter season!