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Fall/Winter Considerations to Keep Your Horse Healthy


  09:56:00 pm, by NHM   , 573 words  
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Fall/Winter Considerations to Keep Your Horse Healthy


Fall/Winter Considerations to Keep Your Horse Healthy

By Lisa Ross-Williams

While you create your natural environment, there are seasonal considerations to keep in mind. Your geographical region will dictate specific challenges, but for most the basics are the same.

 Just as the high heat and humidity of summer present challenges, winter also requires some strategic thinking and planning. By keeping these seven basic tips in mind, winter can be a wonderland rather than worrisome.

  1. Provide plenty of fiber and fat in the diet. Free-choice grass hay promotes not only essential digestive system activity but also generates more body heat than grain or sweet feed. Digestible Energy  (DE) requirements rise in cold weather, so feeding free-choice allows each horse to meet his individual needs. Adding a high fat source such as rice bran or flaxseed can improve energetic efficiency and help maintain body weight during these colder times.

Hint: A few extra pounds going into winter is beneficial, especially for senior horses.

  1. Don’t short the salt. Even though most horses are not sweating in winter, adequate salt is crucial for proper hydration. Provide free-choice loose white salt 24/7 and add 2 tablespoons per day in feed.
  2. Ensure proper water intake. Although it’s normal for a horse’s water intake to decrease in the winter, proper hydration is still important to health. According to the Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 6th revised edition, “Very cold water temperature reduced water intake by 6-14%.”  Offering warmed water, 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit, entices horses to consume adequate water, helping to reduce the chances of impaction colic and dehydration.

Hint: Heated tubs and buckets and bucket or tank heaters are affordable and available at most feed stores.

  1. Allow your horse to grow a natural coat. Horses are naturally able to deal with climate changes because their coats provide insulation against both heat and cold. Caretakers should allow them the benefits of this natural process without interference.By clipping, blanketing and controlling their indoor climate, we are taking away their natural defenses against the elements.

            5.  Allow free-choice movement which generates body heat and keeps muscles loose and          warm.

6.  Proper hoof care is still a necessity. Even though hoof growth does slow slightly in cold weather, trimming on an appropriate schedule is still important. Often horses are not moving as much so natural wear may be decreased. Pick hooves out and examine the hoof as frequently as you do in the summer.

Hint: A light coat of vegetable or olive oil on the soles can help decrease excessive snow or ice packing which most often happens in shod or long-walled hooves.

            7.  Provide shelter from the cold wind and snow. A barn with free access or run-in shed allows your horse to escape the cold, snow or freezing rain if he chooses.


Summary for Fall/Winter Considerations

            *  Allow a natural hair coat

            *  Provide free-choice shelter from the cold, snow and freezing rain

            *  Ensure proper salt and water intake

            *  Give free-choice access to grass hay and add extra fat sources to the diet

            *  Schedule in normal hoof trimming

About the author:

Lisa Ross-Williams is a natural horse care consultant and host of the If Your Horse Could Talk webcast available at www.naturalhorsetalk.com. She has completed the Basic Veterinary Homeopathy course through the British Institute of Homeopathy, holds a degree in Environmental Plant Science, and is an Equine Iridology Technician. Lisa is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Natural Horse Magazine and the author of the award winning book, Down-To-Earth Natural Horse Care available at www.down-to-earthnhc.com.


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