Protecting your horse from the harsh weather at this time of year is very important. Your horse is naturally well equipped to deal with the cold temperatures and weather conditions that winter brings, but by making sure that they are warm, healthy and happy, you can ensure that they'll have a good winter.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your horse is well-cared for over the winter months:
If you keep your horse in a barn or a stable, make sure that it is kept clean, warm and draught free. If you don't have an indoor shelter, do build an area where the horse can get out of the rain.
Your horse will still need to be ridden during the cold winter months, but you will need to take extra precautions and make sure your horse is warmed up properly, with adequate protection.
- Before you take your horse out in the snow, you can coat their hooves with petroleum jelly to prevent snowballs forming.
- Grooming your horse is a great warm-up for both you and your horse before you set out.
- You can warm up the bit before you put it in, by running it under some hot water to make it more comfortable for your horse.
- A boot can stop the horse slipping on the ice. Keep a look out for areas of dangerous black ice and try to avoid these.
- Try to ride in familiar territory so that you can be sure that you aren't riding over anything dangerous under the snow.
Your horses thick winter coat will keep the skin underneath warm but not if it's really wet. So when cooling down after a ride, make sure you dry your horse off to prevent it catching a chill.
Finally, brush off any snow and apply petroleum jelly to the horse hooves.
While your horse may feel cold to the touch, this does not mean that your horse is cold. Consider the breed, the age of the horse, thinness, those without shelter and whether the winter coat has been clipped before deciding to rug your horse.
If your horse is wet consider using a breathable blanket or one that draws moisture away from your horse. Alternatively cover your horse with a cooler, and insert straw underneath.
Make sure you groom your horse regularly in the winter. Even if it's too cold or windy to ride, it's a good way to keep them company over the cold months.
Most horses will grow a thicker coat in winter, which despite the cold weather, can actually make them sweat more than usual. Brush your horse with a curry comb before and after exercise to remove dried sweat and dirt – this will also help prevent skin irritations.
If it's too cold to bathe your horse, try hot towelling as an alternative way to keep your horse clean in winter. Dip a clean towel into a large bucket of warm water, wring it out to remove any excess water, and rub over your horse's hair in small areas at a time, and repeat the process.
Food and Drink
Keep an eye on drinking water as the temperature drops, it's important that your horse stays hydrated, so ensure their supply isn't frozen or icy cold.
Frozen grass not only makes it difficult for horses to graze, but it's also a big risk factor for colic and laminitis so remember to supplement their hay when conditions are bad.
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