The nights are getting colder and days getting shorter signaling that the winter months will soon be upon us. Here are 6 tips to prepare your horse for the colder months.
Many veterinarians recommend boostering respiratory vaccines (Equine Influenza Virus, Equine Herpes Virus (Rhinopneumonitis) and Strangles in the late fall to help decrease the chance of horses developing respiratory infections over the cold winter months. Many factors contribute to the increase prevalence of these pathogens like stabling, changes in weather, bedding, etc.
2) Managing weight:
Horses should be feed quality feed during the winter. Aged horses and harder keepers tend to loose weight during the colder winter months when energy demands increase. These horses benefit from a diet supplemented with increased grain. A weight tape is a great way to help keep tract of how much your horse weighs at home. It is important to use the same weight tape consistently because weight measurements may vary with different brands. Palpating your horse’s body at various locations is another way to help determine proper weight. You should be able to feel your horse’s ribs but not see them. Fat deposits in the crest of the neck most likely means your horse is over weight. Being able to see/feel points of the hip bones means your horse is too thin.
3) Clean fresh water:
Make sure your horse always has access to a clean and abundant water supply. The average size horse consumes 7-10 gallons of water a day. Horses tend not to drink as much water in the cold winter months. Areas that frequently drop below freezing temperatures require heated waters in order to encourage horses to consume enough water. Horses that do not consume enough water a day are at risk for impaction colic.
4) Floating teeth:
Horses should have their teeth checked every 6-12 months. Proper dental health means horses are able to effectively grind long-stemmed roughage and get the most out of their daily diets. Horses that effectively utilize the feed they consume are better prepared to maintain healthy body condition scores throughout the colder winter months.
Not all horses need blankets. Horses that have proper shelter and adequate hair coats do fine without blankets as long as temperatures are not extremely low. If you do decide to blanket your horse. Make sure that the blanket fits properly and is appropriate to meet the weather conditions in your area. Make sure blankets are removed on a regular basis so your horse can be properly groomed and checked for improper blanket fit.
6) Foot care:
Thrush is a bacterial infection that occurs in the bottom of horse’s feet when they are exposed to moist environments. Thrush, which is most commonly seen in the wet winter months, can be prevented with environmental management and regular foot care. Managing mud and having areas that are clean and dry, such as stall mats, available reduces the chance of horses developing thrush.
These are a few tips to help keep your horse happy and healthy this winter.