Winter Equine Care Tips

 
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Horses need extra attention during the cold and wet winter months. By following these helpful tips you can help keep your horse healthy all winter – and all year round.

Shelter

Horses need protection from the winter snow, wind, and rain. Provide shelter in the form of a barn or run shed. Shelter floors should be raised so that horses have a dry spot to stand.

A horse that has a normal winter hair coat does not need to be blanketed, unless the horse lives in an open paddock with no access to a shed and no trees or buildings to provide windbreak. If you choose to provide a blanket, you will want to remove and clean it periodically to limit fungus growth.

Water

Fresh water is a necessity. Horses can colic without continuous access to fresh water. If you use an unheated water source or an automatic waterer, check for and break any ice at least twice per day. You may wish to use a heated pasture water tank to provide warm water and ensure that your horse gets enough liquids. This is especially important for older horses.

Feed

Horses need extra feed in the winter in order to help them maintain body temperature in the cold. Consult your veterinarian about what is best to feed your horse. If your horse is older, a senior feed might be an appropriate choice.

Hooves

Wet pastures can lead to problems for horses’ hooves. Thrush and foot abscesses are common equine foot problems caused by bacteria and moisture and can affect horses that stand continuously on soggy ground. With long exposure to wet ground, hooves can even deteriorate, which can lead to lameness.

Prevention is best; clean mud from your horse's hooves daily and consider applying a thrush medication once or twice per day. A few hours on "dry land" each day or a night in a dry stall can help prevent foot – and other – problems.

Skin

Keep your horse's skin healthy by vigorously currying its body daily. Keep your horses, the stalls and all related equipment clean and dry to help avoid seasonal skin disorders, which can include rainrot, scratches or greasy heel, and ringworm.

Contact your veterinarian for additional winter horse care tips.

Published: December 1, 2009;    Updated: February 7, 2014

Filed Under: Seasonal Issues, Equine

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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