Caring For Your Horse This Winter

Posted by wormers-direct on 12th Dec 2023

Caring For Your Horse This Winter

Being a horse owner is great, until winter hits. The rubbish weather, dark nights and freezing temperatures can make things a little difficult. It is essential to continuously monitor your horse’s health and welfare throughout the year, and the basics like farrier visits and dental care should not be neglected.

The main thing you need to be mindful of during winter is the weather. Is your horse living out, rugged up, in work and requires clipping, and is there shelter available? Let’s have a look at our top 10 tips for caring for horses in winter.

  1. Treat every horse as an individual, they will all have different needs so trust your gut instincts when it comes to looking after them during winter.
  2. Check your horse’s weight and condition regularly, either using a weighbridge if you have access to one, or a weigh tape and assess using body condition scoring.
  3. Provide ad-lib, good quality forage at all times to keep their insides working. This is particularly important when the temperatures dip and their grass may be frozen - supplement them with hay or haylage.
  4. If your horse is overweight, think about ways in which you can slow down their eating while still providing them ad-lib forage. Trickle nets are a great way to control your horse’s weight.
  5. Make sure your horse has access to a shelter at all times, so if the weather takes a turn for the worse they can choose to get out of it.
  6. When it comes to rugging, feel how warm your horse is using your hand, don’t rely on how cold you feel. Over-rugging your horse could lead to discomfort as well as the development of skin conditions. It is always best to under-rug if anything.
  7. Regularly check your horse’s legs for knocks and bumps, as well as early signs of mud fever like scabs or swollen legs with no visible signs of an injury.
  8. Always ensure fresh water is available, remember to break & remove the ice on water troughs when they start to freeze.
  9. Have some salt to hand that you can scatter over concrete pathways around the yard.
  10. Missing a ride in the cold weather will do your horse more good than harm. You can cause so much damage to their legs riding on frozen, rutted surfaces.

Do I Need To Rug My Horse?

The ongoing debate that surfaces every year… whether or not to rug your horse, and what weight rug to put on them at certain temperatures. If you are clipping your horse, a rug is essential as you are taking away their natural coat. The last thing you want is your horse to lose weight and even develop rain scald due to not being rugged with a clipped coat.

You should always remove and replace a rug every day too, to help let their skin breathe. This is easy to include as part of your grooming routine. If temperatures are really low, rather than taking the full rug off, fold back one half at a time so the rest of their body can stay warm.

When it comes to deciding which weight rug to put on your horse, don’t rely on what others are saying, as each horse will need different weights depending on how healthy they are, their natural body temperature, and how recently they have been clipped.

How To Care For Your Horse’s Legs

In the depths of winter when there is lots of mud, your horse’s legs may not dry off fully each day, allowing for skin conditions like mud fever to creep in. Not only should you check your horse’s legs daily for signs of mud fever, you can also use preventative measures such as the Keratex Medicated Hoof & Leg Scrub or Pig Oil Spray which creates a water-repellent barrier.

If you are turning your horse out in the snow, make sure you add petroleum jelly to their hooves as this will prevent the snow from balling up and putting their joints at funny angles. Do remove the petroleum jelly afterwards though, as you don’t want thrush to develop in their hooves.

Do you have any other tips on keeping your horse happy and healthy this winter? We would love to hear them!