Winter Weather Care for your Horse
As extreme temperatures roll in, it’s natural to wonder how you can keep your horse comfortable in freezing weather. We know we would like to be curled up on the couch with a cup of tea, but unfortunately, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to invite your horse inside to join you.
We have compiled some quick tips to help you keep your horse content and cozy in this frigid weather. Hopefully, knowing that your horse is at ease will make it easier for you to sit down and enjoy the snow.
Water is an essential part of keeping your horse healthy, no matter the weather. Winter is certainly no exception, but it may be harder to keep your horse hydrated. Horses prefer water to be around 50 degrees (in any weather!) so installing a water heater is wise, and it also helps to avoid ice. However, be sure to inspect the heater daily to ensure that it is functioning properly and not shocking your horse when he or she is taking a much-needed drink.
Your horses’ nutritional requirements will change as the mercury drops. In fact, according to Marsha Hathaway, PhD, University of Minnesota, horses require an additional 1% of energy for each degree below 18 degrees. In order to provide these calories Hathaway notes that it’s beneficial to provide more hay, explaining, “Heat is generated from microbial fermentation of forages in the hindgut during digestion.” When temperatures drop to an extreme level, it makes considerable sense to provide horses with free choice hay so that they are able to eat to their heart’s content.
Home, Sweet Home
Don’t forget about providing shelter! Hathaway says, “It has been estimated that if a horse has a healthy winter coat and can keep dry it will be comfortable at temperatures down to 18° F; but if the horse has access to a shelter it can tolerate temperatures as low as -40° F.”
Because your horse will most likely be spending more time than usual in their stall or shelter, ammonia levels will be on the rise and can reach harmful levels quite quickly, especially in a heated barn environment. Get ahead of odor issues by treating the area with additional stall refresher, such as Sweet PDZ Horse Stall Refresher, to effectively remove ammonia from the environment and maintain respiratory health.
Don’t Forget Your Coat!
Contrary to popular belief, not all horses need to wear blankets in the winter. Depending on your horse’s breed, age, and workload, you may or may not need to blanket. However, if you do choose to blanket your horse you need to watch the weather and adjust their blankets accordingly. Horses should never be sweaty under their blankets, but the blankets must provide adequate insulation as they impede a horse’s natural insulating abilities.
As another polar vortex bears down on the United States, do all you can to keep your horses warm and cozy. But don’t forget, unlike us, they were made for this weather and are often able to handle it, provided we do our part to provide them with the necessary equipment.
Sweet PDZ has been keeping stalls healthy for over 33 years and continues to be the leading horse stall freshener on the market. This organic (OMRI Listed), non-toxic mineral captures, neutralizes and eliminates harmful levels of ammonia and odors. Sweet PDZ is a far superior alternative to lime products for ammonia removal and moisture absorption. For more information, as well as a dealer locator, visit SweetPDZ.com.
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.