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Winter Horse and Pony Care Tips

Quick Tips to Help Keep Your Horse or Pony Happy and Healthy in Cold Weather

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horses in snow

Some horses that are 'easy keepers' and have thick winter coats may not need a blanket.

Image: K. Blocksdorf
horse wearing blanket.

Blankets need to fit properly and be checked frequently

Image: K. Blocksdorf
Horses at trough

Water is as important in the winter as in the summer.

Image: K. Blocksdorf

Winter can be hard on horses and horse owners. Feeding can be a challenge and the snow and cold can make some horses lose condition. Here are tips for making live easier for you and your horse during the frigid winter months.  

 

  • Adjust Feeding Programs: Even in areas not affected by snow cover, grass often stops growing and the nutritional quality may decrease. As pasture quality or accessibility declines consider increasing hay and concentrates.

     

  • Help Horses Keep Warm: Horses kept outside need to eat more fodder. Horses produce a lot of heat during digestion. A generous supply of hay helps keep the horse’s internal furnace stoked, helping to keep them warm in cold weather.

     

  • Add Minerals: If your feeding program does not include a mineral supplement consider adding one. Have your hay tested so you know exactly what minerals and concentrates you might need to add to your horse’s diet.

     

  • Have Teeth Checked: Make sure your horse’s or pony’s teeth are looked after by an equine dentist. The inability to grind food properly will prevent a horse from getting all of the nutrients and energy it needs--especially if energy needs increase during colder weather.

     

  • Prevent Snowballs: If snow packs into your horse’s hooves try smearing the bottom with petroleum jelly. Talk to your farrier to discuss adding ice calks to your horse’s shoes and don’t skip farrier’s visits just because it's winter and you’re not riding as much.

     

  • If You Ride Frequently: Drying a horse out after a workout is difficult. Consider clipping a heavy hair coat. A clipped horse, without natural insulation, will require stabling and blanketing to keep warm. Don’t put a horse out in the cold wet with sweat.

     

  • Add Insulation: Consider blanketing during wet, very windy, or frigid weather. A wet coat looses its loft--like a wet down jacket, and won’t hold body heat. Windy weather pulls warmth away. Some horses are comfortable during very cold weather; some will be more comfortable in a warm winter blanket.

     

  • Provide Shelter: Even if your horses are stabled over night, provide them with a windbreak or a run-in shelter especially if you are away most of the day.

     

  • Banish Bots: Plan to deworm after the first heavy frost. Use a wormer that includes medication to kill bot larvae.

     

  • Continue Deworming: Continue a regular deworming program throughout the winter months.

     

  • Don't Let Hooves Get Overgrown: Keep you horse’s hooves clipped. Clipped hooves will chip less, hold less snow, and will provide a bit more grip on slippery ground. Hard ground and ice can cause serious cracking to over grown hooves and your horse’ s grip on slippery surfaces won’t be a good if the hooves are too long.

     

  • Check Under Blankets: If your horse or pony wears a winter blanket (or rug) during the winter remove it daily and check for chaffing and irritation. Daily grooming keeps coats cleaner and your horse more comfortable if he wears a blanket.

     

  • Make Cleaning Frozen Water Buckets Easier: Rubber buckets are easier to knock the ice out of if they become frozen. Plastic buckets used as water buckets can shatter when they freeze. This can create a hazard and wastes money when replacing them. Rubber buckets may cost more initially, but last longer.
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