Cold Weather Care Tips

~To prepare your horse and barn for winter you first need to know all of the things you should do. From experience, it does vary depending on your horse, housing and where you live, but there are some things that are simply common sense!!

~Go through your tack, grooming tools and whatever extras you may have for your horse. Store things you wont need during the colder weather, then make sure you have everything needed for the winter and that it is in good shape. For myself, making a list of things to do and things I need always helps.

~Decide how you're going to water your horse during the winter so you don't have to figure it out while stuck in the snow!! Trust me, it's NOT fun!!!

~For those pesky icy spots that can be trecherous! try using sand, cat litter or salt.

~Repair any holes in your barn & get it ready for the winter months. Don't forget to leave some form of ventalation for air circulation. Good ventilation in your horses shelter is very important. Horses are very susceptible to respiratory disease and can be affected by the ammonia that is produced from urine breakdown. If there is no stall available, a 3 sided shed facing south or east should be adequate.

~To help retain heat a horses coat grows longer during the colder months. This also can mask there body condition and make it difficult to judge it accurately. To determine this, one way is to simply "feel" your horse. A good horseman will know, and if there is any doubt ask a professional or one who does know. Weight tapes, while not precise, can help you know your horses weight. You might consider doing this monthly or every 2~3 weeks.

~I start slowly increasing Buckito's grain intake around Sept. and always provide free choice hay as the thing that keeps them warmest is fermentation of roughage in the belly. BE SURE NOT TO UP THE GRAIN AT ONCE!!! I also add whole corn to his diet when it starts getting cold, but that is simply a matter of preference. Some say it helps with heat, some say it does nothing at all. Use your own judgement and if in doubt, contact a vet.

~While I do keep Buckito stalled during the nights and while it's snowing, that's simply my preference. I let him out during the day as free exercise is important. Many people let there horse come and go at will or provide a 3 sided shelter. This is, once again, a matter of preference. Exercise and riding can also be continued, just make sure not to overdo it and NEVER put a horse up wet(see more tips below). Also make sure the hair is fluffed up before turn out or putting them up.

~The only time a horse really needs a blanket is if they have been clipped and then a turn out rug will be sufficient. The longer hair coat will help keep your horse warm as long as they are dry and not in the wind. Some do prefer to blanket there horses though. Unless there like Buckito and decides to tear it off!!

~Hoof care must be followed through on a regular basis. If you choose to leave your horse barefoot through the cold months regular trimming is still important. Frozen ground can cause hoof breakage and can get slick. Turning a horse out where there is sand or some mixture on the ground can help prevent injuries. Most importantly, do not turn the horse out if it is very slippery.

~Be sure to maintain your standard health program: worming, vaccinations etc.

More Feeding Tips

~Our horses fight the elements by using more body energy for body temperature. They rely on us, their owners, to provide proper nutrition and protection from the cold months.

~When your horse starts to use more body energy depends upon hair thickness, fat, and how he adjusts to cold weather. Oh, and how cold it gets.

~As mentioned before, you need to preconditioned your horse for cold weather by increasing fat and body condition before winter arrives. You can't simply provide additional feed to offset loss of body energy as sudden changes in grain amounts will increase chances of colic and founder. That's why it's best to make adjustments in grain gradually over a short period of time, especially if the horse is already consuming a large quantitie of grain.

~Once more, it's a good idea to also feed large amounts of hay. Free-choice hay helps because of the heat generated by digestion and also as an aid to a continual, safe supply of nutrients.

~A concern with providing free access to hay is maintaining a fresh hay supply in ways which reduce hay waste. Large hay losses usually occur when round bales are placed on the ground in pens of horses. One way to prevent a loss is to use elevated hay feeders. If outside, no matter what the method, hay exposed to wet weather for any length of time will require removal due to potential problems from moldy hay. Also, if you leave your horse in a field, provide some form of shelter such as a 3 sided shed, size and design depends upon the number of horses and compatibality.

Riding During the Colder Months

~Be sure to warm up and cool down your horse, and know that these procedures are differeint in cold weather than warm.

~Take the wind chill factor into consideration.

~For the above mentioned warm up, take more time. The extra minutes taken in loosening work will help heat the horses blood and make it circulate through tendons and ligaments. Not doing so could make your horse more prone to tendon injuries in cold weather.

~Rub a good linament, such as Absorbine, into any arthritic joints your horse might have before and after riding. You can also rub it into non-arthritic joints and into major muscle groups like the shoulders, croup and stifle to promote blood circulation. If your horse reacts to the linament, he may be responding to the smell, or the Ben-Gay-like heat the linament generates.

~Proper cool down of your horse after a cold weather workout will depend on various factors. If you rode in the morning, and now the sun is coming out and the day is promising to heat up, you can leave his blanket off and leave his coat somewhat wet since he will dry out. However, if you rode in the late afternoon, and temperatures are dropping, you must walk that horse with a cooler for 10-20 minutes until his body temperature is normal and his coat is dry before you blanket and put him away. Never put a horse away damp when temperatures are dropping.

~Any horse coming in that is hot, in warm or cold weather, should never be allowed to drink ice cold water. This would be a shock to the horse's system and could cause stomach cramps or promote tying up.

~Dealing with the cold nasty winter weather isn't much fun, but being prepared goes a long way in keeping you and your horse safe and cozy.