Preparing horses for winter

Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Ag Notes

Winter will be here before you know it. It’s a good time to start thinking about your horses’ needs before the cold, snow and ice arrive. Winter can be a particularly stressful time for horses, but there are a few simple things you can do to make them more comfortable.

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When temperatures start to dip below freezing, you have to make sure your horses still have constant access to fresh water. Check your water sources now. Are the heaters in good repair? Turn them on and check the water temperature.

Shelter is important to give horses a place out of the elements. A good wind-blocking shelter in the pasture can lessen cold stress on your horses. Make sure you have fresh bedding and the shelter is clean. It doesn’t take long for bedding to get wet, so you need to check it often.

Horses need to eat between 1.5 and 2 percent of their body weight in food each day to maintain their weight. That figure doesn’t account for any activity. In colder weather, horses will need to eat more to stay warm. An average horse of 1,000 pounds, in good body condition, will need to eat at least 20 pounds of hay per day in normal weather. The amount of feed required to meet requirements can increase quickly when the weather turns cold. In many cases the horse will not be able to eat enough hay to meet requirements, so owners will need to add concentrate to the program. Check your hay supplies now and make sure you have enough and that you have a place to store it out of the weather.

Take time to send in a feed or hay sample for testing, so you’ll know if your hay has adequate nutritional balance and quality.

It’s a good idea to get a body condition score on your horses before it gets cold, so you can start making adjustments now if necessary.

Putting a blanket on your horse requires you to think about several things. The blanket needs to be waterproof, in good condition and you need to make sure it fits the horse. An ill-fitting blanket can do more harm than good. If your horse is outside, has a good coat of hair and access to adequate shelter, you probably don’t need to use a blanket. If you do use one, check it often. If the blanket gets wet, you need to quickly change it.

For more information on caring for your horses during cold weather, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.

Jerry Little is the county extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.