winter horse care 101

Winter Horse Care Is More Than Blanketing Your Horse

winter horse care

Horses Need Shelter

Winter horse care doesn’t have to complicated. It may be a no-brainer but your horses need to have shelter from wind, rain and snow storms. Horses with a winter coat can tolerate temperatures around 0 F. If those same horses have shelter, they can tolerate temperatures as low as -40 F. 

Horses will keep on growing their winter coat up until December 22 (Winter Solstice) because days are shorter. After that they start to lose their winter coat once the days are longer. The winter coat is so important as it insulates your horse, and a horse with a thicker coat stays warmer.

To Blanket or Not to Blanket?

If your horse has developed a long winter coat then blanketing is not necessary. However if your horse has been clipped, has a short coat, is elderly or very young, a blanket may be needed once temperatures fall below freezing.

Winter Horse Care 101-The Complete Guide 1

Few horse owners realize how well adapted horses are to deal with cold when certain aspects of their lifestyle are in place for them. Natalija Aleksandrova

Lower Critical Temperature

Lower critical temperature is the temperature below which a horse needs additional energy to maintain body warmth. For horses with a summer coat  it’s 41 F and 18 F with a winter coat. When a horse with short hair is exposed to cold, wet weather they will have a higher, lower critical temperature than that of a horse with a thick coat who is accustomed to cold weather.

Horses Need More Hay In Winterwinter horse care

Horses need extra calories in cold weather to maintain body temperature. For every degree below 18 F your horse needs an extra one percent energy in their diet.

The best source of additional dietary energy during the cold winter months is hay. Hay increases microbial fermentation and keeps the horse warm.

The increased dietary energy requirement would be even more if your horse doesn’t have adequate shelter.

Winter Horse Care Means Horses Need More Water

A 1000lb horse needs 10-12 gallons per day of water. In the summertime grazing horses get some of that water from grass. Grass contains 60%-80% moisture and supplements your horse’s water requirement. 

In winter pasture grass is replaced with dried hay and grain which contain less that 15% moisture. Horses make up the difference by drinking more water. Sufficient water intake combats dehydration and colic.

Horses that don’t drink enough water in cold weather eat less and may be at risk for impaction colic. Even if you offer free choice hay, horses will eat less if they aren’t getting enough water. Horses need to eat so they have the energy they need to burn to keep warm.

How to make sure your horse drinks enough water in the winter:

  • Keep ice broken and maintain water temperature between 45 to 65 F
  • Keep water sources clean and easy to get to
  • Always provide clean, fresh water regardless of temperature
  • Make sure tank heaters are working properly before temperatures reach freezing
  • Give horses 24hr free choice access to loose salt. Adult horses should consume one to two ounces of salt daily. Loose Sea Salt is best because it also contains trace minerals and electrolytes that are missing in the diet

Read: Why Use Sea Salt for Horses?


Winter Hoof Care

winter horse care Barefoot horses have much better traction in all conditions, but especially muddy or snow covered ground. Hooves can become packed with ice which is dangerous,  so it’s important to pick your horse’s feet daily to prevent slipping.

Hooves grow slower in wintertime but regular trimming should be maintained. Winter horse care hoof trimming intervals should be between 6-8 weeks in winter and 4-6 weeks in summer. 

Winter Care for the Senior Horse

Pay special attention to your older “senior” horses needs when the temperatures drop. Make sure they have access to plenty of hay and the other horses in the herd aren’t pushing them away. They especially need the extra calories to stay warm.

Many mature horses develop arthritis which is a painful joint condition that gets worse in cold damp weather. Use a safe bute alternative for pain relief like Herbal Bute Naturally. Unlike regular Bute or other anti-flammatory drugs which can cause ulcers, Herbal Bute has no adverse side effects. Your senior equine friend will likely appreciate the extra pain relief in the colder months.


Read: Devil’s Claw-Herbal Bute Alternative for Horses


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Follow these common sense tips and before you know it the daffodils will be peeking out and you’ll be covered in horse hair as your horse starts losing that winter coat.

Do you have a great tip for winter horse care. Let us know. Share it below!

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