As the temperatures continue to fall and the brisk air of winter is just around the corner, now is the time to get your senior horse ready for winter. It is essential to plan ahead because very often the winter can have a big impact on the well-being of your senior horse if they are not properly prepared. Make a plan and then make a backup plan because you never know when a surprise winter storm or frozen pipes could sneak up on you and your horse. Continue reading to learn our tips for preparing your senior equine for winter.
Maintain a healthy weight
Now is a great time to check on the body conditions of your horse as their activity level is beginning to decrease and they are going to be spending more time inside. Is your horse too thin or too fat? Consider calling a farrier or veterinarian to check the body condition score (BCS) of your horse so you can adjust their feeding accordingly. If your horse is too thin, some extra feeding could produce extra weight that can be good for insulation in the coming months. This extra weight can make your horse more resistant to the cold and keep its body temperature normal. However, make sure they are not overweight as that could add strain to their joints and bones. Your senior horse is not going to get as much exercise as they did in the summer and fall so monitor their weight accordingly. If your horse needs to put on some extra weight, consider upping their hay intake. Fermentation occurs when your horse digests hay and this can produce heat that will help your senior horse maintain their internal body temperature. Just be prepared to adjust your senior horse’s daily feed to keep up with the tole that the harsh winter will put on your horse.
Colder temperatures can stress out your older horse and make them more susceptible to illness. Older horses have reduced immune responses to vaccinations and are also at an increased vulnerability to respiratory diseases that run ramped during the winter months. Make sure your horse is on a regular vaccination schedule to keep them healthy and protected. At the very least make sure your horse is caught up on all core vaccinations recommended by the American Association for Equine Practitioners. If you have a higher risk senior horse, consider a booster between regular vaccinations for at-risk illnesses like EV, equine herpesvirus-1, and the Wst Nile virus, every six months. Setting up a regular schedule now will ensure that they are healthy all winter long.
Dental and Hoof Care
Did you know that a horse’s teeth should be checked twice a year? Now is the perfect time to get one in as normal dental care ensures that your horse can chew and consumer hay without any pain or hesitation. Older horses tend to store their food in the side of their mouths or even drop food after a few bites if their dental health is not taken care of. Hay is an important component of a horse’s diet that regulates its body temperature in the winter. Normal dental care can also prevent choking and colic diseases. Regular hoof care is also important for your senior horse in the winter. Clean them regularly and check for any sores or discomfort around the foot area. Consider pulling the shoes or changing them to prevent slipping on winter ice. You could even add snow pads to protect the soles of your horse’s feet against the hard, frozen ground. Once your horse comes in from outside, make sure to clear out any accumulating snow or ice they may have picked up in their hooves. Want to gift your favorite Ryerss resident with a dental visit or a pedicure? Click HERE to get started!
Shelter and blanketing
Shelter is essential for your horse to be able to bear the harsh winter conditions. This can be a barn, a three-sided shed, or any other place where your horse can be covered and protected. These areas need to remain dry, clean, and well ventilated as your horse will be spending a lot of time in there. They should still continue to get fresh air even if they are not outside. By giving them shelter, they can stay out of the cold and reduce the amount of energy that is needed to keep themselves warm. Blanketing can also help your horse keep their body heat internalized and keep them warm. Make sure the blankets fit properly and remove them daily to check for any sores or skin conditions that may have developed. Blankets should be kept dry and you should never blanket a wet horse. Your senior horses will develop a natural winter coat well into December with the function of keeping them warm. Do not blanket your horse until after December because if you blanket them too early, it could damage this natural coat.
Ryerss Farm is home to many senior horses that get excellent care throughout every season. Come visit us before the winter comes to show them some love and feed them some delicious treats from our gift shop! Our horses will be out in the pastures until 3:00pm and after that time, you are welcome to visit them in their stalls!