Horse owners Get ready for winters
The winter months are a challenge for horses and their owners. Horses and ponies must cope with everything the weather can throw at them, and owners must rise to the challenges of the extra care and attention needed by their four-legged friends. In winter, the days are short and the nights are long.
Winter isn’t a pleasant time but here are just a few tips…
Although the weather is colder, horses still need enough water. Water prevents dehydration and is a vital part of keeping your horse healthy. Not only should you provide fresh water, but check the water regularly to break and remove any ice build up. A tennis ball floating in the trough will slow down freezing.
The BHS has received reports that some vets have seen an increase in the number of colic cases as thirsty horses drink large quantities of freezing cold water. To prevent this, make sure that the horse has access to water at all times so they don’t feel the need to drink large amounts of water in one go, and add a little warm water to their buckets where possible.
Check your water pipes are sufficiently lagged to avoid them bursting after a freeze. Just in case your pipes do freeze keep some water containers filled.
A horse that is able to cope well in cold temperatures may become uncomfortably hot if rugged unnecessarily and horses in general actually find it harder than humans to cool down once they have overheated, because their bodies are so efficient at keeping the heat in. Ideally rugs should be removed once a day to check underneath. If the horse has sweated in the rug (which can easily happen if they have a quick charge about or the sun comes out) the build up of humidity can lead to skin problems. Natural hair loss will also build up under a rug and can become itchy and unpleasant. Removing the rug gives the body and inside of the rug a chance to breathe and allows the owner to check that all is well underneath. It is harder to tell if a horse has lost or gained weight underneath a rug and removing the rug is the only way of checking that everything is as it should be.
Winter riding requires longer, slower warm ups to prevent injuries and longer cool downs to ward off chills.
Try to exercise your horse every day to get their circulation going, if you feel the weather is too bad, turn out or even put your horse on a horse walker. If you aren’t getting to ride make sure you adjust their feed accordingly. Never ride in fog, snow, driving rain, or when the roads or tracks are icy, and always wear hi-viz when you do ride.
‘Balling up’ of ice and snow under the hoof can cause injuries that can be anything from bruised soles to pulled tendons. To prevent snow build up, try applying petroleum jelly to the bottom of the hoof.
Dress yourself in layers that can be removed easily if you get warm while working your horse. A hat is a must, as you lose most of your body heat through your head.
Wear insulated riding boots to keep your feet warm and snug. Your Jacket should be warm, yet comfortable enough to ride in, you don’t want to be restricted when riding or doing stable chores.
Keep yourself warm and chores will seem less arduous! Thermal gloves will ensure your hands stay warm.
Remember that when the snow melts, the ground will be soft and easy to churn up. To avoid injury and mud fever, take steps to stop the ground being disturbed. Moving your horse to different fields to graze will help. Or you could change the point at which you enter the field so that you don’t disturb the same area repeatedly. Move water troughs regularly if possible and cover particularly muddy areas with straw or sand.
These tips are general guidelines only – each horse has different requirements. Stay warm and healthy this winter!