Winter Horse Care Hacks
Brrr... It is chilly outside! The rest of Canada might laugh at us shaking in our boots at -10, but we are not built for the cold and snow out here! My barn currently has 2'+ of snow and more in the forecast. Wintertime is one of the least fun times with horses and always makes barn chores 10x harder. Here are some of my small tips and tricks to help make it a little bit easier on you and your horses. If you have your own tips, I would love to hear them!
Colic is always a huge stress for horse owners when the temperature drops and swings. As much as we love our vets, we really don't want to see them that often, especially in the middle of the night. One way to help prevent colic is a hydration station! Some horses are less likely to drink when the weather gets cold, because they like to stress us out. One of the best investments I ever made for Pi, was a heated water bucket. I never have to worry about him not having access to water with the cold snaps, and he loves it too.
There are many other ways to keep your horse warm than just blanketing up. (Which I still recommend at least 100g depending on your horse, remember rain sheets will make your horse colder in these temperatures.) Deep bedding will help to keep the bedding from freezing and provide a comfy spot for your horse to rest out of the weather.
Providing your horse with lots of access to hay is a great way to keep their tummies happy and their bodies warm. Often in climates that are more prepared for the cold, you will see horses out on pasture with access to a round bale.
"Heat is produced through the digestion of feed and can be useful in helping a horse maintain body temperature in cold winter weather. The greatest amount of heat is released when microbes in the gut digest high-fiber feeds such as hay. In cattle, this process is going on in the rumen; in horses, the process occurs in the cecum and large colon.
High-fiber feeds produce more heat during digestion than low-fiber feeds. Thus, digestion of hay will result in the release of more heat than low-fiber grains, such as corn and barely. Although oats are a low-fiber grain, they will produce more heat during digestion, compared with other grains, due to their fibrous outer hull.
“Energy needs are increased during cold weather, and grains certainly can be fed to horses to help meet this need,” Hammer says. “However, the bottom line is if you want to help your horse produce body heat, feed him more hay.”
Feeding horses more also can help them stay warm. The lower critical temperature for horses with a heavy winter coat during dry, calm weather is approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit. For each 10-degree change below the critical temperature, horses require an additional intake of approximately 2 pounds of feed per day, assuming the feed has an energy density of 1 megacalorie per pound, which is typical for most hay.
A 10- to 15-mph wind will require horses to consume an additional 4 to 8 pounds of hay to meet their increased energy requirements when temperatures are 32 F. When a horse without shelter encounters both wind and wet snow at 32 F, the animal must consume an additional 10 to 14 pounds of hay." - https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2008/dec-24-2008/keep-your-horse-warm-this-winter
How does your horse fare in the winter weather? Have blanketing questions? I am always here to chat!