Winter Horse Care
Special horse care for the cold weather season usually starts in early November We here in eastern Canada (Saint-Lazare, Quebec) were pretty lucky with winter up until a few weeks ago (January 2007). Except for the missing leaves on the trees, riding conditions were similar to those in early fall.
Alas, winter is back, and with it come certain concerns on how to keep our equine companions in top shape.
Some experts in horse care say that a horse has to be exercised the same in winter as in summer. (These experts probably have never experienced real winter conditions)
Icy weather conditions in many cases makes it an impossible task without an indoor arena.
But the cold damp and dusty atmosphere of most arenas are also detrimental to the health of the horse.
Maintain a baseline of physical fitness by riding outside three times a week for an hour at a walk and trot.
A well exercised horse needs to be cooled out thoroughly then brushed to stand the hair up again before turning them back out.
Fluffy hair traps air and keeps the horse warm; hair plastered down flat or wet lets body heat escape.
Check the sole for bruising that may occur on the hard ground and ice.
Many of the abscesses that develop in early spring can be attributed to undiagnosed bruises that started in winter.
Water intake for horses in the winter is also a problem.
Much of the time a horse will not drink as much water if it is too cold.
The best method to keep a horse hydrated is to supply a heated water bucket.
A heated water bucket is akin to a warm cup of tea.
Dehydration (lack of water) is the number one cause of impaction colic in horses.
Another idea for coddling your horse in the winter is to prepare it a nice hot homemade meal. One example of a warm meal that can be offered to horses at least once a week is bran mash. Horses will love this. It consists of bran sweet feed, chopped apples, sliced carrots, and molasses. You can find this horse treat recipe right on this website.
Keep your horse supplied with free choice quality hay outside. A horse needs to keep eating to produce enough body heat to stay warm in winter. Besides, eating is more fun than standing out there in the cold with nothing to do.
Access to a draft free run in shelter is very important. If a horse stays outside all winter place an ample amount of straw or shavings on the floor of the shelter. This will encourage the horse to lie down and have a more restful sleep. You can also find horse bedding information on this website.
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