Winter is Coming
Even though the sweltering, buggy summer of 2019 seems like it’ll never end, the winter season will be here before we know it. When the leaves start to change and horses become more spooky, you’ll know winter is close. While some rejoice at the first freeze, crisp autumn air, and lack of insects, others shudder thinking of the shorter and darker days, unpredictable weather, and the need to combat their frozen extremities while riding. Here’s a few tips to help prepare your barn for wintertime.
First, invest in a reliable water system. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the number 1 cause of colic during winter is a lack of fresh, unfrozen water. Horses must drink 10-12 gallons of fresh water every day and can dehydrate quickly if water isn’t available at all times. This can be especially tricky for picky horses that prefer their water temperature a little warmer. If you’re not interested in breaking ice in frigid conditions, then investing in heated buckets or automatic waterers, which store water underground where it’s a bit warmer than surface temperatures, may be a nice solution for you. Remember, if you are introducing a new watering system, be sure to do so with plenty of time in advance so your horse can acclimate and accept this new method before winter is upon them.
For hard-keepers and senior horses that need some extra help staying warm, packing on the calories with a high caloric feed can be vital. Beet pulp, rice bran, and weight gain supplements are all good ways to make sure your horse has plenty of energy and insulation. Depending on owner preference, you can also blanket your horse to retain body heat. Blankets are good for horses that are worked heavily even in the colder months, but only if there are people to routinely take these blankets on and off as temperatures fluctuate.
At minimum, make sure that your horse has access to at least a three-sided shelter to stay out of the elements. Wind, snow, sleet, and rain can cause upset and illness quickly. Keeping your horse dry is the best way to keep them warm. When riding your horse, even indoors, make sure you give them plenty of time to cool down with their longer coat.
Lastly, have emergency and contingency plans in place. Depending on where in the country you’re located, your winter severity may vary. It’s important to always have emergency and contingency plans, especially so in the winter months where weather can be extreme and unpredictable. Ice storms, blizzards, and power outages can all have disastrous effects if not prepared for in advance. Having plenty of hay, methods to break ice, and access to your horses is critical.
On the plus side, winter comes snowy rides, extra candy canes, and more. Winter will be here before you know it, and with preparation on your side, you’ll be ready and we will all make it through this season together!