Winter is a difficult time for both horses and their owners, there is no denying it! - especially this year which is proving to be one of the harshest winters in recent years. Here are some things you can do it keep your horse fit and healthy during these months. This blog will briefly highlight some important tips for you to keep in mind to ensure a happy winter.

First of all, the most important thing is to know that during winter months horses consume more calories. Some new owners may assume that since horses are not very active during winters, they consume fewer calories. More calories are burnt in order to maintain body temperature and therefore it is absolutely essential to increase the amount of nutrition during these months.  It is highly recommended that grain be decreased and hay increased, since hay is able to generate more heat and thus help the horse maintain its body temperature.

Drinking water is another essential requirement. Large quantities of fresh, clean water should be made available to the horse. Remember to ensure that the water is warm and at a comfortable drinking temperature for your horse. The colder the water, the more calories your horse will burn in order to replace the heat lost due the chilling water. Moreover cold water will make the horse drink less which might result in impaction colic. Therefore warm, fresh, clean drinking water is an absolute must.

Horses should be properly groomed during winter since lice, mites and ticks not only cause a lot of discomfort and itchiness for the horse, they have the capability of transmitting numerous diseases. Bacteria and fungi also result from dirty hair coats and therefore while brushing look for any hidden sore that indicates a wound or bad skin condition. Grooming also keeps the horse’s pores from being blocked, which can result in restricting of sweating ability and ability to stay warm.  

As far as stable blankets are concerned, some equestrians like our natural horsemanship friends, are against this practice and suggest that they should be avoided unless your horse is clipped or has exceptionally short winter hair or in extreme weather conditions. The longer winter coat helps trap the body heat against the skin and tiny muscles in the skin raise the hair to create air pockets to increase the insulation effect. However putting a stable blanket can cause the horse to overheat and sweat. This dampness can result in the horse becoming chilled later and therefore prone to respiratory infections.

Special attention should be given to the horses hooves in winter. Be sure to pick them out each day since mud and manure pack the hooves and there is a chance of thrush to grow. Horses hooves still grow in the winter and so remember to get them trimmed on a regular basis.

Apart from all these important points, the one most important aspect for all horse owners is vigilance. Throughout this season keep a close eye on your horse. Do daily visual inspections while feeding.  Lastly, do remember to enjoy these winter months (if you dare) with your horse, by taking him for a ride every now and then.