As the temperature drops, winter presents several challenges with respect to caring for horses and keeping them healthy. Entering the winter with a cold-weather care plan for each of your horses will help ensure they stay healthy and fit throughout the season.
Cold Weather Considerations for Horse Care
Baseline Body Weight
Establishing a baseline body weight for your horse, as you enter the winter season, is important for keeping track of your horse’s health and caloric needs. As the season progresses, you should routinely check in with your horse’s weight, making careful note of any changes, as weight loss or gain can indicate the need for dietary adjustments or even indicate a health concern.
Each horse’s caloric needs differ and change throughout the winter depending on the horse’s condition, the length of the horse’s coat, moisture (if the horse’s coat is wet), and temperature (including windchill). Every horse has a different lower critical temperature after which their caloric intake must be increased in order to maintain both body temperature and weight.
Your horse’s ability to regulate body temperature, in addition to its intake of food and digestion are highly dependent on hydration. It’s essential that your horse always has access to fresh, unfrozen water at all times. While horses will sometimes naturally drink less as the temperature drops, keeping the water in their troughs at or above 60°F can greatly increase consumption.
Horses naturally grow longer hair during the winter, and it’s designed to keep them warm by holding warmer air closer to their bodies. Depending on your horse’s age, condition, and hair length, however, blanketing might be beneficial to warming a horse in winter.
Be sure to use waterproof blankets that won’t trap moisture between your horse’s body and the blanket, actually making them colder. Additionally, do not pile more blankets on than needed. Blanketing a horse that doesn’t need to be blanketed can actually cause overheating and dehydration.
Winter Weight and Dietary Recommendations From Our Equine Veterinarians
As we enter the coldest months of the year, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with one of our equine veterinarians in Fishkill, NY. We can help you take a winter weight assessment of your horse and recommend an age and coat-appropriate winter feeding, watering, and care routine in addition to evaluating your horse’s overall health.
To learn more about caring for your horse during the winter or to schedule an appointment, we welcome you to contact Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley today.