Keeping Your Horse Comfortable This Winter

Brr – we aren’t done with winter just yet! It is set to be very cold this upcoming week in Alberta!

Here are some friendly reminders and tips to keep your horse comfortable throughout cold spells:

Provide Adequate & Safe Shelter:
If your horse comes into a stall each night, it should be large enough for them to lay down with fresh bedding supplied. If your horse lives outside it is important that they have shelter to escape from the elements. An ideal shelter, at minimum, will have 3 sides and a roof to protect from the cold winter winds that can accompany our frigid winter temperatures.

Check Your Water Sources:
Horses should always have access to clean water in the winter months and if the water is warm, they are more likely to drink. Ideally between 7°C and 18°C. Snow cannot provide enough moisture intake to prevent conditions such as impaction colic. Access to fresh, warm water can keep these conditions at bay. When temperatures dip drastically make sure to check your water sources at least twice daily to ensure they are not frozen over and if you are using heaters that they are still secure, safe and working properly.

Up the Feed When the Weather Drops:
Horses require a minimum of 1.5-2% of their body weight in forage per day to maintain healthy gut function. This can increase up to 2-3% of your horse’s body weight in the winter to support the increased metabolism to keep them warm. Fibre digestion in the hind gut produces heat, which is why horses can do well in cold weather if water, shelter and forage requirements are adequately met. The amount you will need to feed will be dependent on the quality of your forage. We always recommend hay testing to know exactly what you are feeding your horses. Looks can be deceiving!

To Blanket, or not to Blanket:
If your horse lives outside with a natural coat, they likely do not need to be blanketed when adequate shelter is provided. If you live in a wet climate or experience rain, ice or freezing rain, keep a close eye on un-blanketed horses. Moisture will lay down their natural hair and hinder it’s heat holding abilities, making it more difficult to keep warm naturally. If you have a horse that lives inside a heated barn every night or has a partial or full-body clip, providing a temperature-rated, waterproof blanket while outside is recommended or you will risk various avoidable illnesses to your equine friend.

Shoeing Choices:
Some horses go barefoot in the winter months and in most cases, this should serve them well for traction. If your horse is shod year-round it is important to have a discussion with your farrier around what options would be best for winter conditions and could potentially provide traction on your horse’s shoes. Examples of this include, utilizing snow pads that work as an anti-plug device for snow buildup. Or traction support like drilled in pins or ice nails.

General Rules of Thumb for Winter Riding:
➡️ Do not ride when temperatures dip below -20 C
➡️ Ensure your horse is completely dry before turning them back outside post-ride in colder months

Ground Surface:
When you plan to ride in the winter months it is important to inspect that the ground is safe to ride on and the area is clear of ice and ruts. It is not recommended to ride over snow covered areas where ground could be uneven underneath, or the ground underneath is unknown. Please avoid working your horse on frozen ground inside or outside as bruising of the sole could result.

Friendly Reminder from your friends at Energy Equine…

Winter is a great time to slow down, rest, and plan for the upcoming warmer months. BUT, kicking your horse “out” for the entire winter can actually set you farther behind for the upcoming show season. Want to be a step ahead of the competition come spring? Energy Equine Veterinary Services is available for barn days where we can ensure your pre-season to-do’s are crossed off the list!

  1. Deworming
  2. Vaccinations
  3. Dental Examinations and Floats
  4. Coggins Tests (so your paperwork is up to date!)

Plus, let’s start the legging up process on the right hoof (😉) with a pre-season check up and soundness examination. Take the time to sit down with your veterinarian and devise a game plan for 2020 so that your horse can #StartStrongFinishStronger💪 Contact the clinic at (403) 700-0818 to book an appointment. Veterinarians are available in clinic, on farm, and can also be booked for full days at your facility.

Stay warm out there! Plus stay tuned for next week when we share some more great information about winter riding and conditioning!