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With freezing temperatures and snow likely almost anywhere over the next couple of weeks, we have some tips for how you can keep your horses healthy and safe during this icy blast.
Provide adequate shelter.
Many horses can cope with living outside through the winter. But adequate shelter and extra calories, or energy, are essential.
However, the shelter must be large enough to allow all horses in the field to get out of the weather. A horse with a dominant personality might not allow submissive types into the shelter either, so you need to evaluate the personalities in the herd to ensure this doesn’t happen.
If your horse isn’t rugged, cold temperatures alone can normally be endured. Add in wind and moisture (rain, snow or sleet) and winter can get brutal for unrugged horses if the shelter isn’t adequate.
Feed plenty of forage
Horses expend much more energy (calories) keeping warm in the winter than they do at any other time of the year. High quality hay should form the staple part of any winter diet, and it should be available at all times to ensure their energy losses are less than their gains as this is what leads to weight loss.
If horses can’t maintain their body weight they will become colder and use more energy to keep warm, which in turn will make them thinner. It’s a self-perpetuating weight-loss cycle. Feed more fibre now!
Provide water, not ice
One of the major causes for colic in the winter is impaction caused by inadequate water intake. Ensure a constant source of water, and make sure ice is broken.
A ball in an outdoor trough will help this, while double insulating buckets can help prevent them freezing too. Put a smaller bucket within a larger bucket and fill the space in between with hay.
Check your rugs frequently
Rugs are great for keeping horses warm, dry, and happy. However, you must check what’s happening underneath regularly.
If the rug leaks, your horse might have a painful condition called rain scald, or your horse might be losing weight, but you’ve no idea as you haven’t checked under his rug for a while.
Watch the footing
Most horses cope fine if they are turned out in the snow, but ice is another story.
Be very cautious about ice on surfaces where the horses walk, either to get to turnout or within their turnout. Some yards will use muck from the stable to create temporary walk ways.
Frozen fields, that might have been poached during wet weather, or also breeding grounds for injury.
And don’t forget yourself too. Keep extra hats, gloves and scarves at your yard, waterproof over trousers will help keep the chill off, and mugs of coffee travel mugs will help keep you warm.
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