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  • July 11, 2024 5 min read

    Winter Care Tips for Your Horse

    We are officially mid way through winter, and the nights are cold! Unlike summer, caring for horses in winter poses unique challenges, from maintaining warmth and proper nutrition to preventing common cold and wet weather ailments. In this blog, we will provide you with some tips to help you provide the best care for your horse during winter. 

    1. Providing Adequate Shelter

    Stable Management

    Ensure your horse's stable is well-insulated and free from drafts. While horses can tolerate cold weather, they are sensitive to sudden temperature changes and wind chill. A well-ventilated but draft-free stable helps maintain a comfortable environment. 

    Turnout Shelter:

    For horses that spend a lot of time outdoors, a robust turnout shelter is essential. This shelter should provide a windbreak and protection from rain. The floor of the shelter should be dry and well-drained to prevent mud and ice formation.

    1. Appropriate Rugging

    Rugging horses during winter is a common practice, but it's important to do it correctly. Horses have natural winter coats that offer significant insulation, so over-rugging can cause overheating and discomfort. Choose a rug based on your horse's needs, age, health, and workload.

    Regularly check under the rug for signs of sweating or skin irritations and ensure the rug fits well without rubbing.

    Also, to check that your horse is warm enough, place your hand directly behind the withers of the horse (with its rug on). If it is warm, then your horse is warm enough, if it is cold, then an additional rug may be required. It is also important to check that the horse is comfortable and is not sweating underneath its rug, as this can lead to skin irritations and overheating. 

    1. Nutrition and Hydration

    Winter can affect a horse's dietary needs and water intake. Proper nutrition and hydration are key to maintaining their health.


    - Forage: Increase the amount of hay, as the fermentation process in the digestive system generates heat, helping to keep the horse warm. As hay is sparse at the moment, you should increase the amount of fibre in your horse’s diet. Additional fibre sources can include chaff, legume hulls (e.g. T&R Lupin Fibre), Beet Pulp (e.g. Speedibeet) or copra meal (e.g. CoolStance Copra).

    - Concentrates: Adjust grain intake based on the horse’s workload and body condition. Avoid sudden changes in diet. Older horses or poor do-ers may need additional calories during winter to maintain weight. 

    - Supplements: Consider adding vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure a balanced diet, especially if pasture grazing is limited.


    - Water: Ensure fresh, unfrozen water is available at all times. Horses tend to drink less in winter, increasing the risk of dehydration and impaction colic. If your horse is not keen on drinking water there are a couple of tricks you can do. These include:

    • Heating the water
    • Adding salt in the horse’s feed 
    • Flavouring the water with apple juice or molasses
    • Using supplements to increase water intake such as EAC In-Take or KER Drink- Up

    1. Hoof Care

    Winter conditions can be harsh on a horse’s hooves. Mud and wet ground can lead to various hoof problems.

    Trimming and Shoeing:

    - Regular Trimming: Keep a regular hoof trimming schedule to prevent cracks and chips.

    - Winter Shoes: If your horse is shod, consult with your farrier about using traction devices to prevent slipping.

    Hoof Health:

    - Cleanliness: Clean hooves daily to remove mud and debris. Check for signs of thrush, abscesses, or bruising.

    - Hoof Conditioners: Apply hoof conditioners to maintain moisture balance, especially if the environment is particularly dry or wet. Using a hoof ointment that is medicated such as Kelato Hoof Prime or Keratex Hoof Gel can help to keep thrush and seedy toe from developing.

    1. Exercise and Grooming

    Maintaining a regular exercise routine is crucial for your horse's physical and mental health during winter.


    - Turnout: Allow for as much outdoor turnout as possible. Movement helps keep joints flexible and muscles warm.

    - Riding: Adjust your riding schedule to accommodate weather conditions. Use safe footing and avoid icy or overly muddy trails.


    - Regular Grooming: Groom your horse regularly to check for skin conditions and to maintain a healthy coat.

    - Shedding: Use appropriate tools to manage the winter coat as your horse begins to shed in late winter.

    - Bathing: Minimize full baths during winter. If necessary, use warm water and dry the horse thoroughly to prevent chills.

    1. Preventing Winter Ailments

    Cold weather can predispose horses to certain health issues. Taking preventive measures can help keep your horse healthy.

    Respiratory Health:

    - Ventilation: Ensure good ventilation in the stable to prevent respiratory problems from dust and ammonia buildup.

    - Dust Control: Use dust-free bedding and dampen hay to reduce airborne particles.

    Skin and Coat Health:

    - Rain Rot: Prevent rain rot by keeping your horse dry and clean. Use waterproof rugs and ensure the turnout area is free from standing water.

    Digestive Health:

    - Colic Prevention: Ensure proper hydration and regular feeding schedules. Avoid sudden dietary changes. Using a monthly sand accumulation prevention product such as EAC In-Sandout or Sandflush will ensure sand accumulation is minimised. 

    - Teeth Care: Regular dental check-ups are important to ensure efficient chewing and digestion, especially when hay intake is increased.

    1. Mental Well-Being

    Winter can be a less stimulating time for horses, particularly if turnout and riding time are reduced. Ensuring their mental well-being is as important as their physical health.


    - Spend Time with Your Horse: Grooming, In-hand work, or hand grazing are some of the ways that you can spend time with your horse and provide mental stimulation. 

    - Social Interaction: Allow social interaction with other horses, which can help reduce stress and boredom.


    - Consistency: Maintain a consistent daily routine to provide a sense of security and stability for your horse.

    Caring for your horse during winter requires a multifaceted approach to address their physical and mental needs. By providing adequate shelter, appropriate rugging, proper nutrition, and hydration, and maintaining hoof and health care, you can ensure your horse remains healthy and comfortable throughout the cold months. Regular exercise, grooming, and preventive measures against common winter ailments are equally important. With thoughtful preparation and daily attention, you can help your horse thrive even in the harshest winter conditions.

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