The Impact Of Winter On Horses

As the winter continues, and cold weather snaps begin to take hold, it’s essential that you know how to manage your horse over these months so it can remain in the best health, whatever the weather. There are a few important factors to keep in mind when it comes to winter horse care, from the horse feed you use, to the potential changes you may have to implement to your horse’s routine, and the effect this may have. Read on as we take a closer look at how winter can have an impact on your horse.

Horses In Winter

Did you know that horses are actually incredibly adaptable animals? Whilst we may find the winter hard to deal with, horses manage well with a drop in temperature. Horses should all be thought of as individuals, but in general, they feel comfortable in temperatures ranging from 5-25 degrees and can regulate their body temperature throughout the year. When the winter sets in and temperatures struggle to reach 5 degrees, horses can warm themselves up in several ways, from seeking shelter on the coldest days to shivering to keep them warm. Horses are adaptable to a change in temperature, but this comes at a cost.

Factors To Consider

Whilst your horse can regulate its own body temperature and deploy various functions to keep itself warm, there are still a few factors that horse owners need to consider and keep an eye out for to ensure their horses remain happy and thriving in the coldest of winters. Some of the factors to think about include…

Calorie Intake

As we mentioned above, horses shiver when they’re cold to keep their body temperature up, but this requires energy, so ensuring they’re getting the nutrients they need in terms of diet is essential. During the winter, your horse will produce heat when digesting fibre, which can be found in forage like grass and hay. Fibre provides your horse with slow-release energy that can help keep them warm, whilst also keeping their digestive system healthy. If you’re increasing your horse’s fibre intake and giving them access to additional forage over the winter period, make sure you make these changes slowly and carefully, to give your horse the time to adapt without causing any further issues.

Water Intake

Along with your horse’s diet, you should also ensure that you monitor their water intake carefully when the temperature starts to drop. This is for a few reasons – during the winter, troughs may freeze over, making it more difficult for your horse to drink when they need to, so make sure you check for any ice that may be limiting the water supply. Many horses simply don’t like very cold water, so this could affect how much water they’re taking on in a day. You can prevent this by warming the water up slightly, which may encourage your horse to drink. Dehydration is common in winter because of these reasons, so it’s essential that you keep a close eye on water intake during the winter months, to prevent your horse from health issues like colic and to maintain good, all-around health.

Changes To Your Horse’s Routine

During the winter, your horse’s routine may need to be adjusted as the nights draw in and the weather becomes more adverse. If your horse spends the summer outside and needs to be stabled during the winter, you should ensure that you make this change gradually. Horses thrive when they have a routine, and any sudden change can see them facing health problems like colic. If you can maintain your horse’s regular routine throughout winter, be aware of the impacts weather may have on your horse when exercising and turn out. If you are making changes to your horse’s exercise routine or resting them in the winter months, make sure you tackle this change with care, slowly and gradually.

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