7 Ways to Keep Your Horse Healthy During the Christmas Season
Christmas is coming and the cold is really starting to set in. If you’re anything like me, you may be more tempted than ever to wrap your horse up in a thick blanket and invite him inside to sit by the fire. But in reality, there’s not enough space in my living room for a horse and horse’s actually stay fitter and healthier if left outdoors for the winter, as long as they have sufficient shelter from the elements. Below I have listed the top seven ways I keep my horse’s healthy during the Christmas season.
1. Keep Their Exercise Routine
Just like humans, horses also need to maintain their exercise routine through those winter months. Regular exercise also has the added benefit of keeping your horse warm as it helps to get his blood pumping. If severe weather conditions make taking your horse out for a brisk ride impossible, turn your horse out into a large pasture or paddock daily and make sure to provide him shelter at night.
2. Beauty Treatment
Even if the winter days don’t allow you from riding your horse during the winter, make sure to groom your horse regularly – daily if possible. As well as maintaining the visual attraction of your horse, regular grooming provides the opportunity to evaluate your horse and alerts you to problems such as illness, injury, weight loss, lost shoes and cracked hooves. Regular grooming not only maintains the bond between owner and horse but can help you spot anything out of the ordinary in his condition. The earlier you are able to catch a problem, the faster you will be able to start your horse back on the track to good health.
3. Provide Shelter
One of the most effective ways to keep your horse comfortable during the winter is to provide a roofed shelter, which blocks the wind and the rain, in his pasture or paddock. A three-sided shelter with a roof is a must. However, if you have a barn which you use to shelter your horse from the weather, try to leave him outside during the day and only bring him in at night. Make sure you keep the barn door open at all times as this will ensure good airflow inside, as a closed-up barn leads to poor air quality that can affect a horse’s respiratory health.
4. Check the Water Temperature
Water is absolutely essential for the horse’s health all year round but it is especially important during the winter. When eating dry hay, he needs more moisture for digestion than he would when eating grass. Water temperature during the winter is important too; if the water is too cold the horse may avoid drinking as often and can suffer from impaction colic as a result. Make sure to check the water often to ensure ice has not formed on the top. Help maintain the water’s temperature by adding hot water at feeding time to bring the water temperature up to a comfortable temperature. Checking the water levels after each feeding is the best way to be certain that your horse is drinking enough.
5. Hay for Warmth
If you are worried about your horse getting chilled on any given day (perhaps there was a weather warning), you can help by providing good quality hay. Digesting hay creates heat; the chewing and biological processing of hay is a good natural body warmer for a horse. Feeding hay will usually be enough to stop his shivering and raise his body temperature. Throwing your horse some extra hay on the colder nights, when the wind has been howling all day, will not only help keep your horse warm but will give you the peace of mind that you are helping your horse stay comfortable during the cold weather.
6. Use the Appropriate Blankets
There are three main types of blankets for horses: stable blankets, turnout blankets, and sheets. Stable blankets are not waterproof but are lightweight and ideal for a clipped horse to wear in a stable during the winter to keep the chill off. Never put a stable blanket on a horse that is going out in the rain as it will act as a towel and soak up all the rain. Turnout blankets have good insulation and are designed to keep the horse warmer. They are made of tougher fabrics, are waterproof, and will also help keep the rain out. Horse sheets are not as relevant during the winter, as they are a lightweight cover designed to keep the horse clean after grooming. Your horse grows another coat layer during the winter and is great at keeping his body insulated so be careful not to overheat him with layers of unrequired blankets.
7. Take Proper Care of Your Horse’s Hooves.
Mud build-up in the hooves can cause serious thrush infections. Be sure to check for this regularly, especially on rainy days when the ground often becomes far muddier. Maintain your horse’s hooves by keeping them well-trimmed as this will also help the horse keep a better grip on icy surfaces than his neglected hooves would. If your area necessitates it, you should also invest in a hoof pick to take with you on rides. This tool allows you to remove ice and snow packed into your horse’s hooves as and when necessary – perfect for those Christmas-card-worthy snow days!
I hope you have found my list useful, I know it has really helped me keep my horses healthy during the winter months so that we can all enjoy Christmas in good health! Please let me know any advice you have for keeping your horse healthy during the winter months.