20 Top Tips for Horse Owners in Winter
- Have multiple rug options: It is always good to have a backup, sometimes we can have a week of rain so having a backup waterproof rug will allow you to dry one while your horse wears the other.
- Know your horse’s comfortable temperature: Some horses run hotter than others so it is important to keep this in mind when rugging in winter. Remember just because you are cold doesn’t mean your horse is too.
- Rug for the temperature in the middle of the day: If you are not able remove your horse’s rugs during the day, make sure you are rugging for the highest forecasted temperature of the day. Winter mornings can be extremely cold, but often those days can turn into a 25°C sunny day and your poor horse will melt in their heavy winter rugs.
- Do not over-rug during traveling: In many cases we are traveling to competition early in the morning when temperatures are very low. However, horse floats can get very warm and your horse’s body temperature will naturally rise when travelling. In most cases a cotton rug will be more than sufficient to travel in.
- Keep your horses legs clean: Mud is a given in winter and it takes paddocks a lot longer to dry out when the temperatures are low. Hosing your horse’s legs regularly will help prevent ailments such as greasy heel. We also recommend ensuring that your horse has a dry place to stand so their legs have the opportunity to dry.
- Monitor your horse’s hooves for thrush: Thrush is a common ailment in winter so be sure to ask your farrier to check your horse’s hooves thoroughly and treat accordingly if your horse develops thrush.
- Increase hay provision: Pasture quality levels decrease in the winter months so it is important to supplement your horse’s diet with additional hay to ensure their roughage requirements are being met. As a general rule of thumb horses should be receiving a minimum of 1% of their body weight in roughage per day. Slow feeder haynets in your paddock are a great way to replicate grazing and prevent gorging on hay.
- Monitor your horses Body Condition Score: Horses naturally lose weight in winter due to increased energy demands to keep warm and lack of available pasture. In order to prevent weight loss your horses BCS should be monitored weekly and energy provisions should be adjusted accordingly.
- Feed salt- Colic is a problem which is not uncommon during the winter months. Winter colic is often the result of feed impaction within the gastrointestinal tract. Feeding your horse salt daily will help stimulate their thirst reflex and encourage water intake which can help prevent impaction colic.
- Feed an electrolyte: It is a common misconception that because of a reduction in temperature during winter that electrolyte provision is not vital. This myth is in fact untrue! A horse will continue to sweat and lose electrolytes on a daily basis despite outside temperatures, even if it is not directly visible, which is why we recommend the provision of Salkavite or Electrolyte Replacer every time your horse is worked or at a competition.
- Check your horse’s water trough: A desirable drinking water temperature for horses is between 7-18°C, in some areas water troughs may freeze over during winter and water temperature may be significantly lower than this, negatively impacting on water intake. Ensure you are checking your troughs daily and ensure they are not frozen over.
- Keep up to date with your vaccination & worming schedule: Your horse’s immune system may be decreased during winter, so it is important to ensure they are up to date with their strangles and tetanus vaccinations. Worming in winter is just as important as summer so be sure to keep on top of your worming schedule.
- Check your horse’s vital signs regularly: Just like us, horses are more susceptible to viruses in winter, taking your horses temperature regularly is an ideal way to check if they are suffering from a virus. Routine monitoring of the vital signs in particular the skin turgor test is also an effective means for assessing the hydration status of the horse.
- Consider clipping your horse: If your horse is excessively sweating during riding then clipping may be a good option. Clipping can reduce cooling time following exercise and minimise the need for hosing. It is however, important to remember that your horse’s rug requirements will change once they have been clipped.
- Ensure your horses is appropriately warmed up: A good warm-up program is essential in winter. During the colder months it might take your horse a little longer to warm up so be sure to allow plenty of time before launching into a lesson or competition.
- Invest in a quarter sheet: Quarter sheets are a great way to keep your horse warm during warm-ups and in-between classes at competitions.
- Consider a horse-free-holiday: Winter can often be a good time for both you and your horse to take some time off.
- Layer up: Layering is key in winter and allows you to adjust your clothing while riding. A good quality base layer and vest is a great combination to keep your body warm without overheating.
- Invest in the basics: Sometimes you get what you pay for, and two things we recommend investing in are good quality gumboots and warm winter gloves- you’ll thank us later!
- Be aware of your surroundings: Riding in winter can be slippery so ensure you stay vigilant when hacking out and take your time in areas that are particularly muddy.
Experts in Equine Nutrition
Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.