Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Keep your horse safe this winter

Horses are remarkable adaptable and well able to handle the cold. Much more than I think they are! In the wake of the recent arctic blast and my overwhelming obsession with keeping the ponies warm, a huge shout out to the good people at Equine Guelph for sending these timely tips on keeping your horse warm and safe this winter:

Reduce the risk of colic - Horses need water 24/7, and while their thirst may decrease in the cold winter months, their need for water increases as grass is replaced by dry hay. Make sure your horses have access to an adequate water supply to help with digestion, and as temperatures drop, don't allow your water sources to freeze (snow does not provide enough water for your horse). Check your horse's colic risk rate.
*** Tip from the stable: add a teaspoon of salt to your horse's grain, or provide mineral blocks for horses living outside 24/7, to encourage horses to drink.
Safe passage -  Keep pathways clear with a mix of wood chips, sand and rock salt, so they are safer for you, and for your horse!
Hair raising experiences - If your horses are like mine, their training schedule is well maintained during the winter months. In spite of the cold, a horse in work will sweat, and it's important to make sure your horse is cooled out properly before throwing a winter blanket on their back. Horses lose their ability to insulate themselves against the cold when hair is wet and lying flat; if your horse is not clipped, cooling out time will increase. Never put a winter blanket on a wet horse.
***   Tip from the stable: use a polar fleece or wool cooler to help regulate your horse's temperature and avoid chills during cool down. More tips... 
Winter weight - Horses look fat and healthy with their winter blankets on, but have you checked recently to see how they are doing under those covers? It's a good idea to check your horse regularly to make sure it is maintaining condition, including hoof picking, wound checks, and weight loss or gain.
Keep your senior citizens warm - as your horse gets older, you may find it harder to keep him in hardy winter condition. Extremes in temperature, or excessive dampness, will have an effect on senior horses. To keep them comfortable, make sure they have access to shelter, plenty of forage, and blanket. For more tips on keeping your senior horses healthy and happy, click here

And keep your ponies moving! Like people, horses muscles and joints react to the cold, becoming stiffer and less flexible. Conditions such as mud and ice makes movement difficult, and can tense muscles. A good warmup to loosen muscles and joints is important before starting any serious schooling.