I grew up keeping horses in sunny southern California.
Today, my husband and I live in Utah at 7000’ feet. We are lucky enough to have our horses living on our property. Keeping horses in a winter climate is a lot more work than my California days. Winter months bring many challenges – frozen water, icy walkways, feed, blankets, shelter, the list goes on…
Of course, horses were made to live outside year-round but some attention to their care is vital. Below are important factors to keep in mind.
Horses need just as much water, and sometimes more, in winter months than in summer months. Why? They may get some of their water requirement in summer from pasture grass which is not available in winter. If water is too cold they won’t be inclined to drink as much of it. Not enough water may lead to impaction and colic. Studies have shown that providing horses with warm water increases their water consumption in winter. Heated water buckets and water trough heaters are great to ensure water is always available. I’ve had great luck with this API de-icer.
Another way you can encourage water consumption is to have salt available for your horse. I prefer to control the amount of salt my horse is getting by adding a teaspoon to their daily supplements.
Feed intake will increase in the winter months. The best source for dietary energy is forage. In other words, food keeps horses warm! Horses naturally graze on and off for up to 17 hours a day. I prefer to feed grass hay. I can feed more of it which keeps my horses busy and in return is great for gut health. My horses get fed four times a day in winter.
A 3-sided shelter can increase the temperature tolerance for horses. Horses will use a shelter to get out of the weather and may even stand outside to use the shelter as a wind block. Each of our turnouts include a 12×12 run-in shed with rubber mat floors that provide a dry place for our horses to stand and eat.
There are so many blanket options out there. They come in all shapes and sizes, material options, fit options, weights, etc. It is important to make sure the blanket fits your horse correctly, and is the proper weight for your horse for the conditions.
Some horses run hot and some horses run cold. Some horses grow thick winter coats and some not as thick and some horses are clipped in winter.
I have one horse that runs hot and I have another horse that grows a serious winter coat. Depending on the weather forecast I do blanket my horses. I tend to layer sheets for our big winter storms. If the top layer gets a bit wet I can just take it off and throw on another and the base blanket is always dry. I also use neck covers.
It is a great idea to use a cooler after working your horse. Coolers keep horses warm and wick moisture away from the skin and out to the surface of the blanket. Keeping your horse’s skin dry is key. I love my Turbo-Dry Cooler.
Paddock maintenance is ongoing during winter. Ice and mud are a constant.
Ice is inevitable when you have sunny days and freezing nights and horses packing down snow making it a slick mess. My horses come into stalls at night so in the evening I will throw down sand and stone dust on the wet areas and then it will freeze overnight to provide texture in the morning. If you have access to a manure pile you can spread the warm manure out and it will melt the icy areas and freeze in to provide traction.
Snow can build up in horse hooves and may lead to injury. Barefoot feet tend to shed snow buildup on their own. Snow will freeze to metal shoes and create an unsafe situation for your horse. In winter, shoes can either be removed for the season or you can have snow pads added with borium for traction. Talk to your farrier to see what is best for your horses in your conditions.
INSTAGRAM FRIENDS FAVORITE WINTER TIPS AND PRODUCTS
@marylandequestrian from Maryland – Loves her Rambo turnout sheet and medium blankets with the wug neck. She also keeps two heated water buckets outside. She increases her horses grain intake a bit in winter and substantially increases her horses hay intake in winter.
@manastashmillinery in Iowa – biggest staples for keeping her horses in winter…unlimited grass hay, instant hot/cold packs to avoid water use on horse boo-boos, and Himalayan pink salt blocks to encourage water consumption.
@lauren_dressage in Oregon – Loves her Weatherbeeta horse blankets because their front buckles are hidden under a Velcro flap that prevents blankets from getting caught in fencing. And she loves Horse Quencher to promote the drinking of water. I love Horse Quencher too!
@hadleyeventing in Virginia – increases feed in winter to ensure a healthy horse weight.
@kellyn3153 in Illinois – Loves the Horseware Amigo/Bravo line of sheets and blankets that have reflective material. She can immediately find her horses after dark to bring them in! She also loves a good flashlight for winter chores and heated water buckets are a must.
We’d love to hear about your Horse Winter Care tips. Please comment below to share!
**Erin Gouveia of Silver Oaks Farm is an accomplished equestrian, award winning photographer, and an artist. She was born and raised in San Diego, California, graduated from Colorado State University, and now resides in Park City, Utah on a small ranch with her husband. She has had careers in Medical Research, Zookeeping, and most currently Photographer at Erin Kate Photography.