Last week most of New England was hit by a nasty blizzard. Snow, wind and ice pilled high on roads and houses. So while I was enjoying my snow day at home curled up on the couch with a coffee, I thought about writing this month’s blog on winter horse care. During the summer it’s easy to get out of bed to feed and water. You don’t have to put on layer after layer of fleece and snow pants just to keep warm! On the coldest and snowiest of mornings I long for summertime, when it doesn’t take me ten minutes to trudge through two feet of snow! There’s no way around it, taking care of your horses during the winter is a challenge. Winter weather requires more care consideration, such as blanketing, preventing drinking water from freezing and what to do if the paddocks are too icy to put the horses out.
During winter, there are three major questions that I ask myself on a daily basis:
- What is the weather going to be like today? How cold will it be? Are we getting rain, snow or ice? I then dress my horse according to those answers. If the weather is below 40 degrees I always put on a heavy-weight blanket that is water proof. That way if we get snow or rain my horse, Nate, will stay dry. I also consider whether or not the weather will be so bad that he needs to stay indoors. If you are lucky enough to have an indoor riding arena, I would suggest turning your horse out there.
- Does my horse have access to fresh water? I would suggest for every horse owner to invest in a heated or insulated bucket. They are a life saver (well arm in my case, as I have fond memories of chopping ice from buckets with a hammer). These buckets keep the water just above freezing, so your horse can drink. It’s surprising, but horses can easily get dehydrated during the winter, and if they don’t have access to fresh water they don’t drink.
- Does my horse have enough hay? Since grass goes away during the winter, it’s necessary that horses get more hay to compensate. Aside from nutrition, hay also provides energy to help keep your horse warm. My 1,000 lb horse will easily eat four flakes day and night, and if the weather is especially bad or cold, I usually give a little more just to keep them busy.
Sadly, the ground hog did see his shadow this week, so we may be in for a few more weeks of winter. Let’s hope he was wrong though, I’m sure everyone is yearning for warmer weather.