Tips for Keeping Horses During Extreme Winter Weather
By Lynn Baber
Even though the news media is still talking about global warming, many areas are experiencing record cold and extreme amounts of snow and ice. Horses who are acclimated to severe winter weather usually do well with their natural haircoats and the care experienced owners provide. However, if you are new to horse ownership or new to the weather outside your window this year, here is a short list of tips to get through till the mercury rises and the sun comes out.
Make sure your horse has access to open water. This can be the biggest challenge in winter. If the water tank is iced over, the horse can't drink. The colder the water, the less horses will usually drink. When hanging a bucket, begin with hot water. Your horse will have a chance at warm water and it will stay open longer. If you don't have hot water close to your horse's pen or pasture, use an electric bucket heater to heat the water. All you need is a regular outlet or extension cord.
Shelter is necessary. If your horse has to depend on grazing for part or all of his roughage, standing in a shelter isn't really an option if they need to eat. If the weather is wet, you may need to invest in a lined, waterproof blanket. The good old canvas blankets do well and stand up to pasture wear. If you just can't provide shelter from the wind and wet, a quality blanket is a must.
If you experience a freezing, thawing, re-freezing cycle, or a day where rain turns to snow, check your horse's feet for ice build-up. In extreme weather one small problem may quickly lead to another. To prevent ice from collecting on the sole of your horse's foot, spray the bottom with WD-40. Some folks swear by the stuff!
Horses need more fuel to keep warm in extremely cold situations. Consider adding a high fat, high protein pelleted feed or sweet feed mix to your horse's diet to help them cope.
Do not let your horse sweat under his blanket. If you have a night that dips to 10 degrees followed by a sunny afternoon at 45 degrees, run your hand under the blanket at your horse's shoulder to make sure he isn’t getting over heated. If your horse feels warm, remove the blanket and vigorously curry the coat to lift the hair up and allow air to circulate throughout the hairs.
Watch your horse carefully so you will notice any changes in his behaviour immediately. Horses are prone to colic in severe weather, many times because they don't drink enough. The first clue that your horse isn't drinking enough may be a reduced appetite. Make sure he continues his normal routine. If your horse lies down in an odd place or at an unusual time, go out and check on him.
Extreme weather conditions are hard on everyone. Just as you need to plan ahead to keep food in the house and water flowing to the sink in your kitchen, advance planning is required to get your horse through the challenges of cold and snow until the weather moderates. When you stock up on soup, bottled water, and firewood for yourself, take the time to be sure your horse blankets are clean and in good repair, that you have arranged to keep water available in the barn, and take careful note that your horse is eating, producing a normal amount of manure, and moving normally.
About the Author
Whether the topic is personal success or training stallions, Lynn Baber brings years of experience to readers and audiences. Highly credentialed in issues of leadership, relationship, and most things equine, Lynn has a unique perspective not found elsewhere. Lynn's career included business consulting, work as a motivational speaker, and high-level success as a horse breeder and trainer. Lynn is now a writer and director of Amazing Grays Ministry. Follow her blogs, articles, and books by visiting www.LynnBaber.net.
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