Looking After Horses in Winter

Keeping horses has many advantages in terms of your property and the ease of doing it. Of course in some ways it’s more challenging – you need to have the money to rent some space for them or to just have enough land to keep them; but at the same time it means you don’t have all the concerns dog owners have such as wee on the carpet or your furniture being unthreaded.

However what you will likely have is a different kind of problem – the fact that your horses are out in the cold while you’re warm inside and the fact that there’s little you can do to look after them in this scenario. It’s only natural to worry about your equine friends, and particularly when it gets to the colder months. Here are some tips to ensure that they’re happy.

Don’t Cover Them Up

A mistake many people make when looking after their horses in winter is to throw a blanket over them in an attempt to keep them warm. This is of course very well meant, and it would be great if horses worked in the same way as people. Unfortunately though, they do not and what’s good for a person isn’t necessarily helpful for a horse. This is because it prevents their natural coat from doing its job which is to trap air pockets between the hairs and thereby create an insulating blanket that way. If you flatten their hair with a cloth then that can’t happen, and at the same time if the blanket gets wet they’ll be much colder – so trust in their natural ability to stay warm.

Give Them Air

The same goes for keeping them in the stable. You might be tempted to think that shutting them in and creating a closed environment would be a good way to keep the air and therefore the cold out, but actually that air is good for them and it’s a wrong move to try and seal them in as this will only make the environment moist and allow bacteria to thrive – which is much more of a problem than a little cold when you’re a horse. So give them lots of air, but help them to keep themselves warm by providing dry hay and straw.

Give Them Shelter

While your horse has a lot of natural defences against the cold, they are somewhat more helpless when it comes to rain. Rain steels body heat which it uses in order to evaporate and this then leaves your horses cold and prone to illness. To avoid this being a problem, make sure that you give them somewhere to huddle to stay dry when they’re out in the pastures such as a three sided shed.

Feed Them Well

Feeding your horses is an important way to ensure they stay healthy and you need to feed them even more during winter. In particular you should make sure to feed them fortified foods high in nutrients because these will help their immune systems to stay strong in the cold so that they can fend off bacteria. Likewise you should also make sure they get lots of calories – as they will burn more during the winter in order to keep warm, and an extra layer of flab can help to keep them from getting chilly. Finally, ensure that your horses have some essential fatty acids in their diet. This will help them to keep their hair healthy and strong which will help them to stay warm in the way described above. You should also check your horses regular to make sure they don’t look too thin. Checking around the ribs is a good place to notice excessive weight loss.

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