Cold Weather Care for Horses

Keep your horse healthy and safe this winter with our equine winter care tips. From keeping them warm to preventing illness, we've got you covered!

As the winter months roll in, horse owners everywhere have one thought on their minds: how to keep their beloved equines healthy and safe through the cold weather. Equine winter care is a vital part of keeping your horse happy and healthy during this time, and it’s important to understand what you can do to ensure they get the best possible care throughout these colder months.

In this blog post, we’ll cover some key topics related to equine wellness that can help you make sure your horse is taken care of this winter. By the end of this post, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to make sure your horse is happy and healthy all winter long! So let’s get started - read on for 6 tips on equine winter care.

1. Ensure access to clean drinking water at all times.

Horses rely on dry roughage such as hay for energy in the winter. This high-fiber diet can put them at risk for impaction colic if they do not remain properly hydrated. This can be a very serious condition, sometimes requiring surgery to resolve. Make sure water sources are kept protected from the elements and remain as ice-free as possible. Bucket insulators and bucket heaters can be effective ways to prevent ice build-up. All water sources should be checked twice daily and any obstructing ice removed. 

2. Provide high-quality forage.

Did you know horses actually create their own heat through the process of digesting fiber? This means a well-fed horse will stay cozy and warm in temperatures that make us shiver. Providing extra hay on cold days can keep their internal heater working properly. If you have an older horse that can not chew hay properly they should be supplemented with alternative forage sources such as senior feed, hay pellets, alfalfa pellets, or soaked beet pulp. This is also a good time to think about scheduling a dental exam to ensure all horses have healthy mouths before entering the coldest months.

3. Provide shelter from the elements.

Although horses are naturally good at starting warm in cold temperatures, they can quickly become chilled when they get wet or exposed to high winds. A simple three-sided structure facing away from the wind is an excellent way to keep them dry and comfortable. If you have a large herd, make sure there are enough shelters provided that all horses can have access without squabbles.

All-in-all, take the necessary steps to keep your horse dry from the cold and wet weather conditions that tend to occur during this time of year. 

4. Blanket those horses that need it.

A healthy horse with a thick winter coat and protection from the elements will not always require a winter blanket. However, if your horse is thin-coated, body-clipped, or underweight they will benefit from the added layers. Horses burn calories to keep warm in the winter, so blanketing thin, geriatric, or ill horses will help keep them from wasting that needed energy. Remember horses are just like us and they will shiver when they are cold. If you catch your horse shivering it means they are asking for a blanket!

5. Deworming, and preventative healthcare plans.

All horses over one year old should be dewormed after the first hard frost with a product that is effective against tapeworms. Ivermectin + Praziquantel is a good option. For the best care, a fecal sample can be run at our lab to determine your horse’s fecal egg count. This will help us develop a tailored deworming schedule that is best for your individual horse. Fecal egg counts are most accurate if they have not been dewormed in the previous 12 weeks. 

 This is also a good time to start thinking about your spring healthcare schedule. A plan should be in place for regular checkups and monitoring. Spring vaccines are essential for any horse, even those that do not travel. 

Carrollton Equine can help you with all of your preventative needs. Our expert staff provides top-notch veterinary care and ensures that your horse gets the best service possible. 

6. Stay on top of hoof care

Especially during the cold months, you need to make sure you are cleaning and examining their hooves on a regular basis.  Because of the frozen ground and snow, horses tend to develop slippery frozen hooves. Horses that remain shod in the winter are more likely to develop snow accumulation which can form hard ice balls under their feet which reduces traction and makes them more prone to injury. Adding a snow pad to the shoeing package can be an effective way to reduce ice buildup.

Winter often means muddy paddocks as much as snowy. Hooves that are kept muddy for long periods of time are prone to develop infections such as thrush, abscesses and cellulitis. Be sure to provide an area of dry footing for your horse so that their hooves can dry out at least once per day.

Key Takeaways

To sum it up, taking proper care of your equine companion during the winter months can ensure they stay safe and healthy throughout these cold weather days. By making sure their nutritional needs are met, providing shelter from the elements, blanketing if needed, providing access to fresh water, and developing a preventative healthcare plan with your equine vet, you will be armed with the knowledge and tools needed to keep your horse healthy and happy all winter long!

If you have any lingering questions about taking care of your horse during the winter season, contact Carrollton Equine and our expert vets can provide you with some more information! We also provide a wide variety of other equine services.

Happy winter everyone, and stay warm!

About The Author

Dr. Alyson Waring-Scott

MVB, cVMA, VSMT  |  Equine Veterinarian

I am an Equine Veterinarian at Carrollton Equine and enjoy all aspects of equine medicine. I am especially passionate about dentistry and ophthalmology, and have received advanced training in both of these areas. I am also certified in medical acupuncture and VSMT (chiropractic). 

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