Kentucky Equestrian Articles


The Winter Chill

Submitted by: Danielle Aamodt
Phone: 267-972-1491
Email Address: danielleaamodt(at)gmail
Date Added: 2/28/2015

The Winter Chill

Unless you are one of the fortunate few who migrated south for the winter, you are eagerly counting down the days until spring. Taking care of your horses in the frigid weather is challenging for many reasons. Here are some precautions you should consider during the remaining winter months:

High risk of colic:
Winter is a prime time for impaction colic, commonly due to lack of hydration. Horses need to drink enough fluids to keep the food moving in their gut. Be especially cautious during fluctuations in the weather. Break the ice in their buckets, add warm water or soak their feed to increase your horse's water intake. Continue to turn them out. Allowing your horse to stay mobile will encourage them to drink and decrease the risk of colic.

Frozen footing:
Outdoor arenas, pastures and walkways can turn into a frozen wasteland of tiny potholes and divots. Not only is there a risk of falling, but there is also increased likelihood of lameness. Horses may get sore feet, slip and strain a muscle or sustain inflammation from working on the hard ground. Prevention is key. Manage the mud around pastures and the barn, so it doesn't turn into a frozen wasteland. And remember to pick the snowballs out of you horse's feet, because horses are not good ice skaters!

Managing Feed:
Horses need extra calories during the winter to manage frigid temperatures. They also need to replace the nutrients that would usually come from grass. But don't immediately jump to adding more grain to their diet. Most grains are full of sugars and starches which can increase the risk of intestinal blockage. Instead, elect to give your horses more forage. The fiber found in hay will help them generate heat and also keep their digestive tract moving along.

While we prefer to lock up our barns to stay cozy, you have to keep proper ventilation in mind. Without some air flow, the dust and ammonia fumes can cause respiratory complications for your horses (and you!). Watch for condensation in the barn, and then you know more ventilation is necessary. If you need to close the doors on the especially chilling nights, leave the loft open which allows for air flow without creating a draft.

Preventative management is crucial during the freezing winter months. To increase your horse's chance of staying healthy this winter, keep these major precautions in mind. Then cross your fingers and hope that spring will be here soon!

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