How To Get Your Horse Ready For Winter
The days are getting shorter, and riding season is coming to an end. Even though your horse has innate ways of coping with cold weather, they may need some help staying warm. Here's what you can do to get your horse ready for the winter:
Feeding Your Horse In The Winter
Your horse's digestive process helps them maintain body heat. They'll need more calories in the winter to stay warm. The average horse needs 25% higher energy intake during the coldest months, though it varies from horse to horse depending on their age, how much time they will spend outside, how well they tolerate the cold.
Your horse will need at least 1.5-3% of their body weight in forage. They should also have access to a salt block and water. If your horse's trough tends to freeze over in the winter, you can invest in a trough heater to make sure they're never without water.
Winter Hoof Care
In the winter, your horse's hooves will typically grow more slowly. You may notice that you do not need visits from the farrier quite as often.
Even so, your horse may be vulnerable to weather-related hoof issues. Exposure to moisture can cause the hoof to expand and contract, and this can allow bacteria to enter the hoof capsule, sometimes leading to an abscess.
When your horse encounters snow, it may melt and refreeze between the soles of their hooves and the shoes, forming ice balls. Anti-snowball rim pads form a barrier that pushes out ice balls.
If you do not plan to ride your horse as much in the winter, you can let them go barefoot. This can give their hooves a break and prevent ice balls from forming.
Should I Blanket My Horse In The Winter?
The start of winter is a good time to make sure your horse's blankets still fit and that they have not been damaged in storage by mold, mildew, mice, or moths.
Your horse's winter coat will grow in until around December 22, after which the days will gradually start to become longer again. The temperature influences the rate at which your horse's hair grows, so if you blanket before then, it may not grow in as much. Even so, you may still choose to blanket your horse earlier in the season.
An older horse may no longer be as good as regulating their temperature. A hard keeper may not have enough body fat to stay warm and may have trouble staying warm. If your horse's coat is clipped, they'll also need a blanket. Also be prepared to blanket your horse if it gets unusually cold out.