You may be surprised at how well horses can adapt to colder weather. In the wild, horses can withstand temperatures at well below zero. However, there are a number of things that you can do to maximize your horse's health and condition during the colder months. Here are a few tips that will help to keep your equine friend happy and healthy during winter months.
One important thing to remember is that although horses do well in colder temperatures, they can be affected by cold winds which not only make them extremely uncomfortable but also have a tendency to spook the horse. You can keep your horse happier by providing some type of wind break such as a run-in shed in the pasture. If your horse does not have access to a run-in shed, a line of trees may be adequate to block some of the wind, but it is advisable that they at least have some sort of shelter from potential wind, snow, and freezing rain .
In addition to a nice shelter for your horse, you should increase your horse's hay intake during the winter months. Hay digestion creates increased heat production which helps your horse stay warmer in the winter months. Be sure that you are not increasing the grain intake, as increased grain intake will not provided the desired results of helping your horse to stay warmer. In fact, excess grain has been linked to foundering and potentially colic.
If your hay is not of the best quality, you should take your hay to be tested so that the hay is providing all of the nutritional benefits to your horse. Beet Pulp has been used by many horsemen as an additional feed source to supplement hay. The qualities of beet pulp allow it to be an easily digested feed with similar nutritional benefits as hay. Be sure that your horse is receiving enough feed through high quality forages to help him or her sustain a healthy body weight throughout the winter.
In addition to providing extra hay, you should also always provide fresh water for your horse. Although the weather is colder, horses still need enough water intake to keep their digestive tracts in line. Water prevents dehydration and is a vital part of keeping your horse healthy. Not only should you provide fresh water, but check the water regularly for ice. You may need to either install an electric heater in the water trough or keep a rubber mallet nearby to break ice which accumulates in buckets.
Another tip to keep in mind is to cool down your horse after exercise. Although this is equally important in the summer time, horses can easily chill after a rigorous work out if they are not provided with a cooler blanket to keep their body temperatures from losing heat too quickly and to keep them from becoming chilled while wet with sweat. Remember to walk your horse after a work-out so that they can cool down slowly.
Winter months can be refreshing and exhilarating for horses as long as they are kept healthy and happy!