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  • May 18, 2023 3 min read

    Winter Care for Horses: Essential Considerations

    Winter is fast approaching and poses unique challenges for horse owners to ensure the well-being and health of our equine companions. Cold temperatures, harsh weather conditions, and limited grazing opportunities demand careful planning and care. In this article, we will explore essential considerations and provide practical tips to help you navigate winter and keep your horses happy and healthy.

    1. Feeding and Nutrition
    Horses require extra calories during winter to maintain body heat. Hay is one of the best feeds to help keep your horse warm, as well as supply it with extra calories as needed. Slow-feeding hay nets will encourage continuous foraging and help prevent boredom.

    Depending on the type of grass available in your horse's paddock, it may not be sufficient enough to maintain their weight. If this is the case, increasing your horse's feed through ad-lib hay or another fibre intake, such as beet pulp, copra, lupins, or soy, may be necessary. Conversely, if your horse has a paddock full of grass, consideration may need to be given to limiting their paddock time or using a grazing muzzle to limit their intake of grass, especially for those horses that are prone to laminitis or are good doers.

    2. Water Supply
    Hydration is essential for horses, even in colder weather. Horses tend to drink less during winter, so it is vital to encourage drinking wherever possible. The high fibre content of hay will encourage the horse to drink more, so not only does hay warm the horse, but it also makes them drink! If your horse is still reluctant to drink, warming the water or flavouring it will also help encourage water consumption.

    3. Winter Rugging
    Rugs can be beneficial to horses, especially those that have been clipped or in extreme weather conditions. Use rugs that are appropriate for the temperature and consider the horse's individual needs. Regularly check for proper fit, avoid overheating, and remove blankets to allow the coat to fluff up and provide natural insulation. It is also essential to clip buckles up safely to prevent catchment on other items. Clips always need to face inward towards the horse to avoid them clipping onto something else and causing your horse to shy and potentially get hurt.

    4. Shelter and Bedding
    Providing adequate shelter is crucial during the winter months. A well-built, windproof stable or run-in shed with proper ventilation will protect horses from cold drafts and precipitation. Ensure that the shelter is spacious enough to accommodate all horses comfortably. Regularly inspect the structure for any damages and repair as needed.

    Bedding also plays a vital role in maintaining warmth and preventing moisture buildup. Use deep, clean bedding such as straw or wood shavings to provide insulation and promote comfort. Regularly muck out stalls to maintain a dry and
    hygienic environment.

    5. Exercise and Mental Stimulation
    Regular exercise is crucial for a horse's overall well-being, even in winter. Provide daily turnout in a safe and well-fenced area, weather permitting. Engage horses in mental stimulation activities, such as hand walking, feeding hay in slow feeder nets or hanging boredom-busting toys, to prevent boredom during extended periods indoors.

    6. Hoof Care
    Cold weather can lead to various hoof-related issues. Regularly inspect hooves for signs of cracks, thrush, abscesses or other problems. Maintain a consistent hoof care routine, including regular trimming or shoeing, to ensure proper hoof health. Consider applying hoof moisturizers or anti-fungal treatments as recommended by your farrier or veterinarian.

    7. Health Monitoring
    Regularly monitor your horses' overall health and well-being throughout winter. Check for signs of weight loss, dental issues, respiratory problems, or any other abnormalities. Schedule routine veterinary visits and ensure all vaccinations and
    fecal egg counts are up to date. Promptly address any health concerns to prevent complications.

    At Oakford Stockfeeds we are here to help! If you need any assistance with sourcing the correct feed for your horse then please reach out to us either online or visit us in store!

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