Gosh, isn’t this lovely weather we’ve been having? There’s nothing like having 20 degree winter air nip at your nose while feeding horses. Personally, I love knocking the ice out of water buckets. Call me crazy, but I laugh my head off when I break manure rake tines on frozen manure. Add some sleet and snow and I’m one happy girl! Thanks, Old Man Winter!
Let’s get real. Winter for horses and horse-owners alike is tough. Between the extra work and the extra clothes, I’m starting to feel worn out, and it’s only January. I’m sure my family is also tired of my pile of stinky wool socks, coveralls, and muck boots sitting by the door. But, alas, we love horses anyway, no matter the weather! Here are my top three ways to keep your horses healthy this winter.
1. Water, water, water. Adequate water intake is vital. Colic happens the most in winter months due to inadequate water intake. If your horse is stalled and you have access to electricity, invest in a heated water bucket. For horses who have a tendency to chew things, buy a heated bucket, instead of a separate bucket heater. I’ve made this mistake before only to find a ruined bucket heater and a frozen water bucket in the morning. Make sure to secure all electrical cords. Don’t ask me how I know that. If your pasture tank is too far away from an electrical source, like my pasture tanks, you’ll need to resort to breaking the ice. Have a tool ready and waiting, preferably someplace where it cannot freeze solid to the ground making it unusable. Trust me on that one, too. My weapon of choice is an old long-handled hatchet. I also recommend using an old manure rake to fish out the large pieces of ice. My horses don’t care for ice water. Who knows, maybe they’re French! Oiu-oiu! I’ve stumbled across some great ideas on Pinterest, as well, for keeping pasture tanks from freezing completely over; such as using a soccer ball or a salt-water-filled gallon jug. If you try those methods, let me know how it works!
2. Break that wind. Wait, what? You heard me: domestic horses require adequate shelter especially if there’s a chance of cold rain, sleet, or snow. Most horses adapt well to dropping temperatures, but precipitation and wind make it much more difficult for their hair coats to insulate as they should. Make sure your horse has good shelter to get out of the wind and rain if need be. If your horse doesn’t have any shelter, then I strongly suggest using a blanket. Horses with short hair coats, and young or old horses, need extra-care blanketing as well. A wet horse in low temperatures with a strong Oklahoma wind is a bad combination.
3. Fuel up. When horses get cold, their bodies require more energy and calories to maintain proper body temperature. Feed them the fuel they need to generate more heat through the digestion process. Rather than adding more grain concentrates, feed plenty of high-quality hay during cold spells. High-quality forage will produce more heat as a by-product of digestion than grain will.
Keeping your horse as healthy as possible is a big job, especially in the winter. Other tricks and tips include- adding warm water to regular grain feedings to encourage water intake and provide a warm meal, picking balls of snow and ice out of hooves as you feed to reduce the likelihood of bruising and lameness, and, if you exercise your horse through the winter, making sure to allow sweaty horses to dry completely before blanketing.
I hope these tried-and-true methods help you this winter like they do us at Rocking E! If you need me, you can find me outside breaking icy water tanks!