When discussing horse management in winter, we tend to underestimate many important aspects of horse health such as hydration, nutrition, temperature and exercise. In this article, we will provide you with useful tips on how to best manage your horse during the winter season.
The importance of hydration in winter
The transition to the cold season may result in a greater amount of time spent indoors rather than outdoors. As a result, the horse will be fed more regularly with hay and feed. If your horse is used to being on pasture, then it means that the water intake it receives is 60-80%, unlike feed, hay and grain, which contain less than 15%.
Remember that a 450-kg horse needs to assimilate at least 40 liters of water per day. If the horse does not drink enough in winter or does not get enough water, it is likely to eat less. For this reason, troughs should be filled and cleaned regularly to allow the horse to balance the “drier” food with the right amount of water. If this does not happen, bowel constipation is just around the corner, and is likely to cause uncomfortable colic. Another suggestion is to check the water temperature. Exactly like humans, a horse is less “inclined” to drink water in winter if it is frozen!
Re-covery M ash is the ideal Saracen feed for the horse in winter because it promotes optimal rehydration. Re-covery Mash is a high-fiber, banana-flavored mash that can be strategically administered as and when needed to entice picky drinkers and eaters.
Dietary advice for the horse in winter
Another aspect to consider when managing your horse in winter is gastro-intestinal health.
In fact, low temperatures can adversely affect its digestion causing constipation, and, in the long term, colic and ulcers.
Gastro is a 100% natural Immun-Ocean supplement designed for horses suffering from gastrointestinal problems. In addition to the algae Ascophyllum nodosum and Lithothamnium calcareum, both harvested using sustainable methods and rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, Gastro stimulates the growth of bacterial flora, which is essential for the absorption of all food nutrients. Gastro also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) for joints, and magnesium.
The importance of the balance between shelter and free grazing
Whenever possible, it is always best to keep horses outdoors, where they can acclimatize naturally. During winter, unless there is excessive wind or humidity, the horse can withstand temperatures below 0°C. If you have very young or very old horses, you may consider having them spend the night in the box instead.
Ideally, one should have unobstructed access to the stable, stall, or sheltered, covered area. The stall should always be clean and sheltered from power and rain so that the horse can rest properly even when the weather is hostile.
When to cover the horse?
Horses do not suffer from the cold as much as we humans do. In fact, their fur naturally thickens as temperatures drop, retaining heat to the right degree. So be sure to offer him shelter if you shear him, because shearing takes away the horse’s ability to thermoregulate and develop his special “winter coat.”
It is also important to cover him only when necessary: covering the horse too much in winter risks diminishing this natural predisposition to thermoregulation. However, it is still appropriate to cover it when there is a lack of shelter or in view of severe frosts; very young or very old horses may also need more protection. Make sure the blanket is the right size, and remove it often to make sure there are no abrasions and that the fur is always in good condition.
Supplements are also useful for maintaining and strengthening the horse’s immune health in winter, as long as they are natural! Pure is a dedicated Immun-Ocean supplement that strengthens the immune system, and is also indicated to support good hoof, skin and coat health. Pure is formulated for all horses, and is based on garlic and Ascophyllum algae, enriched with 11 vitamins, minerals and 16 amino acids.
Exercise is essential!
Exercise is essential for the horse in winter! Precisely because the temperatures are lower, regular activity helps to warm up the muscles and keep it exercised. When we train in winter, we pay much more attention to warming up to avoid muscle tears or injuries. The same goes for the horse: if he is boxed in, it is good to acclimate him to the outside temperature, and start movement and training in stages. Start with short walks and increase the time day by day. Especially if you are involved in sports, it is important to ride for at least 4-6 hours a week.
The Care of Hooves in Winter
Although hooves grow less during winter, this does not mean that shoeing should not be done regularly. Winter brings moisture, mud and snow, all of which when combined with cold weather are likely to create hoof problems. Sprinkle your hooves with vegetable oil or Vaseline, and always keep a foot net with you to “clean” your hooves of hardened mud or ice after a walk or workout.
Wanting the best for their horses is the prerogative of every owner. With the coming of winter, we tend to think that the horse suffers from the cold as much as they do; well, this is not the case, the horse is much more resilient than we think, and this is what makes it magnificent!
However, we must not forget to have an eye on his intestinal health and hydration.