Winter -- More Things to Consider
Posted: January 20, 2012
By Jessica R. Bussard
M.S. Candidate in Crop Science, Plant and Soil Sciences Department, University of Kentucky, Penn State University, Animal Science Alumnus
Lower winter temperatures cause an increase in horses’ dietary energy requirements as it takes more energy to maintain body heat. Because of this, owners should consider whether or not it is necessary to adjust their horse’s feeding program to compensate for their increased energy needs. Energy needs can increase by as much as 10-25% during colder weather. Providing roughage in the form of quality forage will help with this as a large amount of heat is generated during the digestion process. Along with quality forage, be sure to offer a mineral and salt supplement.
Depending on what area of the country horse owners live in, they may want to consider blanketing their horses. Whether or not to blanket your horse depends on several factors: climate, riding schedule, horse’s ability to grow a sufficient winter coat, and age-related “thermostat problems.” By providing an extra layer of warmth the horse’s energy requirement to maintain body heat is reduced slightly allowing for better maintenance of body condition.
If blanketing is an option, horse owners should be sure to purchase a blanket that is the correct fit for their horse. If unsure what size is needed, a measurement from the center of the chest to the point of the rump where the blanket ends will help determine the correct size. The right size and fit will ensure that the horse is comfortable and free from chaffing and irritation.
For horses shod throughout the winter, in regions that snow is prevalent, snow may pack into horse’s hooves making it difficult to walk. This snow packing is caused by the snow’s affinity to stick to the inner rim of the metal shoe and freeze causing snowballs to form. But with the advent of the snow pad and rim pad, this problem can be averted. These pads are specially designed to prevent snow pack in hooves.
Riding in winter can sometimes be a challenge. If an intense and frequent exercise schedule remains part of a horse’s life during the winter months special precautions should be made to make sure the horse is properly cooled down to prevent chill. Clipping horses to allow quicker cool down in winter after workouts is one method, but because of reduced insulation these horses must be stalled and blanketed to stay warm. Use of a quarter-blanket beneath the saddle to wick sweat and prevent chill can also be helpful. Quarter blankets cover the hindquarters and are usually made of a fleece or wool. Leg straps keep the blankets in place.
One last important thing to be aware of is that your customers’ horses are vaccinated against high-risk diseases and on a regular deworming schedule going into winter. Horses are at higher risk for respiratory diseases going into winter. Consult a veterinarian to find out the major diseases to vaccinate for in your area.
These tips were just a few of the vast list of things horse owners should consider as winter approaches. For a more extensive list of considerations contact your veterinarian, farrier, or local equine extension agent. By ensuring that horses are happy and healthy during the winter months, you and your customers will both be able to make it through the winter a little easier.