Winter Horse Care Tips
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
We are lucky enough living in North Georgia to have beautiful seasons, including a mild winter. Today we were blessed with a beautiful snowy morning. Last year we had no snow days but this year we've had a few flurries. This is our second winter in Georgia and before living here, we were lifelong Florida residents. For us human family members, and at least two of our horses, this is our first experience on the farm with 'real' snow.
We are lucky to have wonderful neighbors and friends who prepared us with a few critical winter horse care tips. Winter can be hard on horses and especially their caretakers. Freezing temperatures and slippery ice can make conditions difficult and also present a host of safety concerns. Here are a few tips for making life easier for you and to make sure your horses stay healthy and warm during the winter season.
If your horse relies on pasture as a significant portion of his diet, you may have to adjust your feeding program in the winter. Even without snow, pastures stop growing and the nutritional quality of grass declines. Increasing your horses' hay or grain may be necessary to maintain your horse's body condition.
Make sure your horse has access to water that isn't frigid cold(45-65F). Though you don't need to necessarily provide heated water, supplying water that is at a comfortable temperature for your horse to drink will help prevent him from becoming dehydrated or having a colic episode.
For watering horses, choose rubber buckets over plastic ones. Plastic buckets used for water can crack when they freeze. Rubber buckets are easier to knock the ice out.
Make sure your horse has access to free choice salt and minerals. This will encourage your horse to drink and allow him to naturally maintain his body's mineral balance.
Invest in a waterproof blanket with a neck. This will help keep your horse warm and dry on snowy days.
Limit turn-out in "black ice" conditions when possible. Black ice is melted precipitation that freezes on roadways. The same phenomenon can happen in paddocks and pastures, especially in low spots when snow melts and re-freezes or standing water turns to ice overnight. These slippery conditions are especially dangerous to horses, and turn-out in icy areas should be avoided.
Make sure to pick your horses' hooves regularly to prevent snowballs. If snow consistently packs in their hooves, you may have to smear the bottom with petroleum jelly or a pin tar-based hoof oil like Farnam Rain Maker. Snowballs or ice packing of the hooves tend to be more prominent with horses that have shoes.
If you ride frequently, keep your horse body clipped. Keeping your horse warm and dry after a workout may be difficult if he works up a sweat and has a heavy hair coat. It is important to keep in mind that body clipped horses will require stabling and blanketing because they will no longer have their natural insulation.
These tips will aid in giving your horses safety and comfort plus provide you with piece of mind through the winter months. Check out more pictures below from our winter wonderland day.