Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winter Care for Horses: Dos and Not Dos

 Winter is coming up. For some places, that means snow, for others, it means chilling rain. Regardless of where you are, it is essential to know how to feed and care for your horse in that particular season. Malory, at the Country Hitching Post, is doing a post about winter care, and I decided research and compile a list of 10 to do things and 10 not to do things.
Winter is almost upon us, so it is important to know how to care
for your horse in this season.

To Do

  1. If it is very cold(below freezing), rainy, windy, or/and snowy, feed your horse extra fiber. Hay works best, as the horse's body creates heat when digesting.
  2. Check your horses weight often, removing the blanket(if he has one) and feeling his body. It is very easy for him to lose weight in the winter.
  3. Make sure your horse's water hasn't iced over or is cold. Cold water may reduce drinking or cause colic, so it is beneficial to warm it up before giving it to your horse to drink. Bucket heaters may be available at your boarding barn or online, just remember not to let the water boil. Lukewarm is good enough. 
  4. If it gets icy or snowy where you are, you may have to replace you horse's shoes with snow shoes, or take them off altogether. Snow shoes are made specifically for icy conditions, giving the horse more traction and preventing snow and ice from getting stuck in his shoe, possibly causing lameness. Often, it is best just to take the shoes off unless your horse needs them. 
  5. Even if your horse has a winter coat, you may need to give him a light blanket if it is rainy or windy.
  6. Many people body clip their horses. If you do, make sure you have blankets for your horse, some that will protect him well enough in your climate. For some, than will just be a thin blanket. Others will need a thicker one.
  7. Some parasites survive, even in the winter, though this is more common in warmer climates, such as California. Make sure you deworm your horse to protect him from these parasites.
  8. Pick out your horses hooves daily, getting rid of snow and ice buildup. 
  9. Warmer climates can also mean thrush, a hoof ailment that causes the frog to produce a black, oily substance.
  10. Many horses do well if they are kept outside. However, they should always have access to a shelter, such as a three-sided run-in. 

Not to Do

  1. Do not let your horse's water trough freeze over or get too cold.
  2. Do not let your horse just sit around in the pasture. He needs exercise! Try to ride him as often as possible, even if that means ride in the cold. Snow sometimes gets in the way, and not all people have access to an indoor, so lungeing him or turning him out to a paddock or pasture for a little bit will work out just fine.
  3. Do not ride to hard if your horse is out of shape. Sometimes you only have time for an occasional  ride or only ride when the weather isn't terrible. If you do, take care not to overwork your horse. Start out small and work up to more difficult exercises.
  4. Do not keep your horse indoors all winter. it is more healthy for the horse to be turned out with a shelter to keep out the wind, rain, and snow. However, if it is not possible to keep him outdoors, at least keep doors and windows open in the barn to allow airflow and take your horse out daily.
  5. Do not over-blanket. This is a common mistake among newbies. They see their un-blanketed horse out in the freezing cold paddock and think, "The poor thing must be cold," giving him a blanket or two. Horses do not get as cold as people do. often, a winter coat and a thin blanket is good enough. 
  6. Do not neglect to care for your horses hooves. Some people do not do this when it is cold, but in reality, horses may need even more hoof care in the winter, when ice can buildup in there hooves.
  7. Do not forget to groom. Your horse needs to be groomed, even in the cold. This keeps him healthy and clean.
  8. Do not let your horse sit in the pasture without touching him until the spring. Daily maintenance–grooming, hoof picking, watering, feeding–can be hard when it is freezing outside and you prefer to sit by the toasty fire, but it needs to be done.
  9. Do not forget to give him extra fiber. This includes hay, and sometimes even corn oil.
  10. Do not forget about yourself! While it is important that your baby is taken care, do not forget about taking care of yourself. Bundle up. Wear gloves and toe warmers. Do whatever it takes to stay warm and healthy while taking care of your horse. the last thing you want is to catch a cold. 
Keep these tips in mind to make sure you and your horse stay healthy and taken care of this winter. Stay tuned for my post about blanketing, which I'll post up later this week or next week.


  1. Shy refuses to drink warm water. When she was stalled, she had a heated bucket and a regular bucket. The heated bucket went untouched all winter. She would bust through the thin layer of ice in the other bucket to drink. Good ideas on winter care! I am a big advocate of no blanketing, unless the horse has a clip, is older, or has a health issue. Horses have an amazing ability to pilo-erect their hair to keep them warm as needed and blanketing often gets in the way of their ability to self-regulate.

    1. It's funny how different horses have their own preferences on things, like the temperature of water. It's cool how warm horses can be even when it is freezing cold outside.

    2. Yes! Every time I am freezing outside I think Shy must be cold, too. But when I feel her, past all her fuzz, her body temp is quite warm.

  2. We don't have horses and I know nothing of them. But this is so some great information. Your posts are always so helpful and full on good instructions. Thanks for sharing with us at The HomeAcre Harvest Hop!

    Please join us again Thursday for our special edition The Thankful HomeAcre Hop at:



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