10 winter tips

Winter is not always so easy peasy for us horse people. We brave the cold in our thermal gear with hats, gloves and scarves hoping not to drop frozen from our horse. Horses, on the other hand, are much more resistant to the cold and winter conditions. There are a number of things you can take into account to ensure that your horse gets through the winter season healthy. 


  1. Roughage – Roughage is the basis of every horse’s diet, the gastrointestinal system is adapted to this. In addition, the digestion process of roughage acts as a kind of internal heater for the horse, keeping it warm during the cold days. Especially if your horse has no or less turn out, feeding sufficient high-quality roughage is important. If your horse has grazing all year round, keep in mind that the grass has less nutritional value in winter. The addition of roughage may therefore be necessary.


  1. Body condition score – Keep a close eye on your horse’s body condition, because of its winter coat this can sometimes be more difficult to judge. Therefore, feel for your horse’s ribs regularly to check whether it is maintaining weight.


  1. Water – Water is also an important point of attention in winter. A horse normally drinks 20 to 70 liters of water per day, depending on the temperature, humidity, body weight and workload. In summer we often know that the water requirement increases due to sweating and summer temperatures. However, in winter the need can also increase due to the low humidity and the absence of fresh grass. So always ensure that your horse has continuous access to clean, not too cold, drinking water. Horses are more likely to drink lukewarm water (7-10 ° C). They do drink ice cold water, but to a lesser extent, so the chance that your horse will not receive enough water is present.


  1. Frozen water lines – When the days and nights get colder, pipes and automatic drinkers will freeze faster. Therefore, regularly check whether the horse still has access to running water. You could put a ball in buckets, the movement of the ball in the wind prevents the water from freezing quickly. Don’t assume that your horse will supplement its water needs by eating snow. Melting snow costs your horse a lot of energy, making it difficult to maintain its core temperature. In addition, ithas toeat a lot of snow to gain enough moisture. 


  1. Salt or mineral licks – Although horses sweat less than in summer, they also have a salt requirement in winter. Salt contents are often insufficient in roughage and concentrates. By hanging a lick, the horse can determine when and how much to supplement its salt intake. Never put a lick in the food bowl. The horse then receives more salt than necessary while eating its concentrates.


  1. Temperature in the stable – When it is cold outside, we are quickly inclined to make it nice and warm in the stable.Soyou close windows and doors, so that no heat may be lost. But a poorly ventilated space is not so healthy for your horse. Ammonia (from urine), dust and fungi pollute the air and can cause respiratory problems. Therefore, always ensure good ventilation, but make sure there are no drafts. This can also cause health problems. 


  1. To rug or not to rug – Horses can handle cold temperatures just fine. We feel most comfortable at temperatures between +15°C and +30°C (undressed), while for horses thermoneutral zone is between -5°C and +20°C (unclipped). As soon as it gets colder, the horse grows a winter coat, this ensures better insulation. When a horse is cold, it can put its hairs up by means of tiny muscles, this creates an extra insulating layer of air. Whether you want to put a rug on your horse depends on your horse and your goals with it. Old or sick horses may need the extra warmth from the rug because they themselves are too compromised to properly regulate their temperature. You may also find the winter coat hinders your training. A rug may then ensure that winter coat production is limited.


  1. Turn out or not – In winter this can be a bit more difficult at some stables because the horses are taken off the fields. Make sure that your horse can at least be turned out in a paddock or arena. The disadvantage of putting your horses out to pasture in winter is that the ground gets trodden. To preventthisyou can divide it into smaller sections and turn the horses out on one section at the time. This section will get muddy, but the rest of your pastures will remain good. If you then let this section rest in the spring, it will be able to recover. 


  1. Training – When training in winter, it is important that you give your horse a longer warm up and cool down. Awarm upensures that the muscles are well-circulated and therefore the risk of injuries is reduced. Walking is a good warm up, you could also do some stretching and flexion exercises for your horse. A cooling down is necessary to remove any waste products built up in the horse’s body from the training. If this is not done properly, stiffness and muscle pain can develop. In addition, it is necessary to let the coat dry. 


  1. Variation in training – Variation in training keeps your horse’s body and mind healthy. Especially in winter, you see that horses are often in their stables longer, so a lovely hack outside is not such a bad idea. You can also hack out in the snow, just make sure to remove any shoes or give your horse special winter threads or grips

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