How do I winterize my horse?
There is no general answer to this question. You should first ask yourself the following questions:
- What breed is my horse?
- How old is my horse?
- How is my horse kept?
- Does it have any diseases/difficulties?
- Is it particularly heavy-fed?
- What do I want to do with my horse over the winter?
In the wild, wild horses get very thick coats. But there they are not ridden, gymnastic, moved or trained. Winter takes a lot of energy out of horses because they need to stay warm. Most horses feel most comfortable at temperatures between minus 8 to plus 15 degrees, although this also depends on the breed. Generally, horses become crisper in the cold season and enjoy the cooler temperatures - they really blossom!
Should I blanket my horse - yes/no?
It depends. You'd better put a blanket on older, heavy-fed or sick horses. If they are struggling with something anyway, then it's important that they don't freeze. Keeping themselves warm takes a lot of energy.
A horse that runs in competitions or is trained at a higher level several times a week is also often tucked in. Often these horses are shorn because the thick coat makes them tired quickly. When the coat is sweaty through, it often takes hours for it to dry completely. During this time there is an increased risk of colds for the animals. Here again, individual attention must be paid to the horse. Some horses manage fine with their thick coat in winter training. If that is so, no blanket is necessary.
If you have your horse in an open stable and only want to do light work and trail rides with him, where he does not really sweat, then neither a shearing nor a blanket is necessary. The only important thing is that your horse can shelter at any time. So, make sure that your horse is not in low rank and standing in the constant rain for days. If this is the case, then you should better put an unlined rain blanket on him.
If you have decided for yourself and your horse that a blanket or possibly even a shearing is necessary, then you should of course pay attention to the fit of the blanket. Remember that your horse will be wearing this blanket for hours and it should fit accordingly. Adequate shoulder room is important and the belly straps shouldn't be too long. Also, you should only put the blanket on dry coats. Some blankets are breathable, but you should still make sure that your horse does not have a wet coat when you put the blanket on. If your horse has been out in the rain with the blanket and you don't have a spare blanket, be careful when removing the blanket. Don't just throw it somewhere or hang it down. Fold it neatly so that no air gets to the lining. This is the only way to prevent the lining from getting clammy and to keep it dry so that you can relax and put the blanket back on your horse after riding. Remember: Never put a blanket with a wet lining on your horse. The kidney area will immediately get wet and cold and your horse will get sick.
You cover every year? Then remember to winterize your blankets early enough! Check them for holes. Also, washing and re-impregnating is the order of the day.
Should I shear my horse - yes/no?
Shearing only makes sense if the horse is actively ridden and exercised and sweats a lot. If you only want to shear to have cool patterns, then you should let your horse keep his coat. Especially if you want to do long relaxed rides with him and he gets out a lot. The long coat not only provides warmth, it also protects against rain, snow and wind. Especially when a really nice mud crust is smeared all over the coat, the rain or snow rolls off the coat wonderfully and doesn't reach the skin. Also the wind has no chance against the dense and thick coat.
However, if your horse sweats daily while riding, a shearing is beneficial for keeping the horse healthy. Long sweaty coats can quickly lead to colds in horses. In addition, constant salty sweat is not good for your horse's skin.
Should I take off my horse's horseshoes - yes/no?
Many horse owners have the horseshoes taken off their horses during the winter. And this is perfectly fine. However, individual attention should be paid to the horse and the situation. Is the horse moved less in winter? Does it snow a lot in the region? On snow and ice, horseshoes are more slippery than the hoof horn itself. Especially the hoof beam of the horse acts like a natural grip. That's why many leisure riders and horse people who have their horses in open stalls, in particular, remove the horseshoes. Of course, horses that normally have horseshoes run more sensitively on hard ground. That's why you should think carefully about whether to take the shoes off or leave them on. There are also some intermediate solutions, such as studs and/or a grip. If you choose studs, we recommend those that you can screw on and off yourself. The grip, on the other hand, is a rubber-like material and is additionally attached under the horseshoe. Its purpose is to prevent too much snow from accumulating under the hooves and to prevent horses from slipping so often. The disadvantage, however, is that the hoof nail in the horn has an increased range of motion due to the rubber, so that germs can enter more quickly.
If you are unsure, you can certainly have a talk with your farrier. Then you can look for the perfect solution together.
Should I put my horse out to pasture - yes/no?
Can my horse go out in winter? Sure! Horses are not made of sugar. They are robust herd and running animals. Accordingly, it is even important for them to get out. It strengthens their social behavior and their immune system. Fresh air is also enormously important for your horse's lungs. Thus, muscles and tendons are supplied with oxygen by clear, fresh air. It's important for any horse to be able to shelter if it rains or snows for an extended period of time. Any healthy horse should be able to handle a little rain. But if horses really stand in the rain for hours or even days without being able to dry off, it can lead to colds or even skin fungus. Also, pay attention to the footing. Some horses are sensitive to standing in mud for too long. Then they often get mallenders or thrush. If there is no dry ground available as a paddock, this is no reason to leave the horse in the box! After mudding, simply wash the pasterns and hooves and rub dry with a towel. If you are still unsure, you can ask your veterinarian for additional advice. But one thing is for sure: Let your horse go outside! Keeping them in a species-appropriate manner includes sufficient exercise and movement. Especially when you consider that a wild horse moves around comfortably for about 16 hours a day.
Care should be taken with icy paddocks. It is best to make a weatherproof paddock before winter sets in. A variant are ground grids with split and sand, here the slip and trip danger is reduced. If your horse goes to a pasture and the grass is frozen, your horse should not go hungry to this pasture. In fact, it is best to have enough hay in the paddock itself so that your horse does not satisfy his hunger on the frozen grass. However, a little frozen grass is not harmful.
Should I ride my horse - yes/no?
Can you ride your horse in winter? Yes, of course! Even in winter your horse should be moved. Just as with the other issues, the situation ultimately dictates what can and cannot be done. Of course, you shouldn't go on a trail ride when it's icy. If you're out in the dark, you should outfit yourself and your horse with flares. If your horse is not covered, you should not ride him the same way you would in the summer. Just take more breaks and shorter sessions so your horse doesn't sweat as much and catch a cold. A little sweating isn't bad, but it shouldn't be ridden soaking wet. However, if your horse is tucked in and possibly even clipped, you should ride with a kidney blanket or a sweat-off blanket when you warm him up so he can warm up slowly. A sweat rug can be put on any horse after riding (unless the horse has not sweated at all). Also, be sure to warm up your horse longer in the winter. The joint fluids need a little more time to become warm and supple.
Should I change the food - yes/no?
Many riders wonder whether or not the horse needs supplemental feed in the winter. Here, too, it depends on the breed, age and farming. Basically, hay/haylage and a mineral lick should suffice in winter. Especially good hay is important in winter, because the digestion of the hay creates fermentation heat, which warms the horse from the inside. Forage straw is also an energy supplier and helps horses thermoregulate. Many veterinarians advise against overfeeding minerals and supplemental feed. If a horse is being trained at a higher level, concentrate feed is of course added. If a horse is heavy-fed, you can add mash in the winter, as well as a dash of oil over the feed. Again, every horse reacts differently. Basically, you do not have to change the feed in winter. Only if movement and training change, the feed plan has to be adjusted, of course. Some horses also have certain deficiencies, here you can decide after a simple blood test with the vet, which additional feed is suitable. Simply trying it out is not recommended. After a blood test you will know exactly what your horse needs. Also make sure that your horse drinks enough. Some horses do not like cold water and therefore drink too little.
Great for winter
Solariums are great for the winter. Among other things, they relax the horse's back and stimulate the metabolism and local circulation.
Variety is also important! Often in winter outdoor arenas and forest paths are icy. Horses and riders are confined to indoor arenas. At these times it is especially important to bring variety into the daily routine. There are no limits to creativity here. Pole work, jumping gymnastics, ground work, trail training (if possible), anti-fright training, double lunge or neck ring riding. The main thing is to have fun! And of course safety. When the arena is full, be considerate of each other so that everyone can work reasonably with their horse in the arena. Also try to work with your horse outside as much as possible, despite the difficult circumstances, so that he gets plenty of fresh air. Because dusty air in stuffy indoor arenas make the horse's lungs cough very quickly. The coarser dirt particles and the fine dust, which are in the indoor air, clog the alveoli in the long term.
Warm up your horse's bit with hand warmers before riding. This not only warms the bit, but also your own hands!
How do you winterize your horse? Do you have any cool tips and tricks to share with us? Feel free to write us a comment!