Winter is coming! Surviving the Cold
I’m guessing you have seen at least three articles this year about getting your horse ready for winter. Do you blanket, do you not blanket? What foods do you feed for winter? How do you care for your senior horse in the cold? These are all good things. This article will hopefully add a few ideas that haven’t been gone over. Enjoy!
1) Water: Water is essential for life, and winter can cause issues with water distribution. Whether you are on a well or city water, have some extra on hand. I know our well is useless if the electricity goes out so I have both human and horse water on hand for emergencies. It is also important to do what you can to avoid emergencies in the first place…especially when it comes to frozen pipes that could burst. Keep an eye on the weather, wrap your pipes and outside faucets and keep your hoses drained and wrapped for easy use. Quick release fixtures on hoses make life lots easier! Invest in some!
2) Alleviate as much mud as possible! Mud can cause severe hoof issues, and with a little time, money and sweat can be taken care of before the wet weather has come to stay. It isn’t any more comfortable for your horse to stand around in mud as is for you and its either pay for mud control, or vet and farrier bills.
3) Caloric intake needs change in cold weather. Plan for extra hay, extra healthy fats, and “stay warm” herbs, especially for the senior horse. Herbs such as ginger, paprika, fenugreek, cayenne, clove, anise, and cinnamon will not only help keep the body warm but will keep the immune system boosted. For healthy fats use flax, chia, coconut, rice bran etc…a body that is low in fat is going to steal energy from muscles which is the main cause of weight loss in winter time. Increase fats so the body can use it for energy to keep warm rather than burning muscles! Boosting muscle build with Nutritional Yeast will also help, especially for the seniors.
4) Is your covered area adequate? Cold and wet horses burn more calories, which means you spend more on hay and feed than you need to. Blocking from wind and rain will not only cut your feed bill but will help boost your horse’s immune system. Though horses are more prepared for surviving cold, wet and wind than us humans, most horses greatly benefit from having a warm dry place to cozy down on ugly winter days.
Whether your winters are dry and frozen or just wet and cold, it’s important to plan ahead. Even horses that stay in stalls in winter have their issues and feel the cold….no barn is completely weather proof. Planning ahead will not only make your horse more comfortable, but will help in keeping them healthy as winters are hard on the immune system. And don’t forget the apples and carrots! Not only are they a healthy treat, but the extra vitamin C is very welcome during the winter months!
Put together some warm mash recipes, love on your horses, and stay warm out there!
Photo by Digilca on Flckr