“Winter is coming,
The squirrels are getting fat.
Please put a blanket on your horse’s back
If you haven’t got a blanket, a long thick coat will do,
If you haven’t got a long thick coat then read this blog through!!”
A couple weeks ago I was feeling a little under the weather; I was ready for the winter chill to blow in after Thanksgiving, but the temperature couldn’t seem to make up its mind! One day it was 40⁰F and the next day it was nearing 70⁰! I don’t know about you, but my body couldn’t keep up with the constant changes and eventually I got sick. I stopped eating almost all of my food and wanted to lay down a lot. The vet came and ran some tests to try and figure out what was wrong.
Eventually I began to feel better, and now I’m as happy as a mischievous pony. Christi and I are enjoying a happy medium with the temperature now and I hope that it starts to become more wintery since the holidays are around the corner! December 21st marks the first official day of winter!
If you noticed that your horses were acting a little odd, it may have also been because of the temperamental weather. Here are some things to consider during changing seasons:
You may love to get bundled up before going outside in the chilly weather, but horses already wear their coats every day! However, not all coats are made equal. Some horses have more or less hair, and warmth also depends on the horse’s fat layer. See – having a little extra fat can be a GOOD thing! Pass the doughnuts!
Cold weather may not always be the greatest concern for horses. Rainy weather can cause a horse to get chilled quicker and longer, causing greater stress. In determining what blanket to choose, consider where your horse will be primarily housed during the winter months. Then assess its body condition score (BCS). Horses with a BCS of 1-5 will need to be blanketed sooner than a horse scoring 6-9.
For more information check the Equine Science Center’s fact sheet on Blanketing Your Horse.
Just like the acorn-scavenging squirrel, horses similarly increase their nutrient intake- except they eat a little more every day during the winter, not a lot right before the season. So, it’s totally cool for me to have an extra snack or two right now! For every degree the temperature drops below a horse’s critical temperature, (this is different for every horse based on various factors, but is usually between 30-50 degrees F) its hay consumption must be increased by 1%. It is important that only the hay is increased because that is the food stuff that ferments inside their body and lets off heat to keep them warm.
Having water and salt accessible is also very important for a balanced diet. A quick tip to remember is to have a water heater in the source so that 1) the waterer doesn’t freeze at night, and 2) the water is not a cold shock to your horse’s system.
Refer to the Equine Science Center’s fact sheet on Winter Feeding for Horses for more info & tips.
As your horse eats more hay, there is a higher risk of impaction colic if it is not also drinking enough water. You know what they say about horses, “You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Well, no one ever said anything about tricking them into drinking water! Some good tricks are soaking a pelleted concentrate, hay cubes, or beet pulp in two gallons of warm water as a meal to encourage water intake.
Also watch out for rubs and cuts from blankets and outdoor activities. Wet environments are breeding grounds for fungus; so if you put a blanket on a wet horse, it will likely develop a rot as well as a chill! Ouch – I get chills just thinking about that!
See the Equine Science Center’s fact sheet on Winter Care for Horses for more information.
The Equine Science Center is a great source for tips, tricks, and truths about winter care for your horses this season. Think of it as an early gift to you from the Center! Have a very happy holiday season and make sure to spend lots of time with your friends, family and horses!