Please raise your hand if you have ever slipped on the ice while carrying a bucket of fresh water to your horse that won’t come in?
Have you ever rationed feed and hay during a storm that lasts days?
If you’ve ever forgotten to prepare for cold weather and you paid the price, or you made some common mistakes and you are trying to rectify, this article is for you!
The good news is that caring for your horse through a wicked winter storm doesn’t have to be such a hassle. I scoured the internet and found the most useful tips that you can implement before the storm hits.
Let’s begin with the basics like diet….
1. DIET: A horse’s diet provides the fuel his body needs to stay warm. Horses keep warm by digesting hay, not by eating grain. The horse's body generates more heat from the fermentation process in the hindgut as a result of eating forage (hay and pasture). So feeding more hay and less grain will allow the horse to more easily maintain its body temperature.
A 1000 pound horse generally needs between10-15 pounds of hay daily. In cold weather, that can increase up to 20% more, which would be between12-18 pounds daily. Feeding your horse high fiber feed if your horse cannot eat enough hay will also help.
PREPARATION TIP: Keep your barn full of hay. Use your garage, trailer or whatever you can to buy in bulk.
An increase in hay (10% water content) and a reduction in pasture grass (80% water content) can lead to impaction colics due to the decrease in moisture content so make sure you pay close attention to water intake.
2. WATER: Make sure your horse has access to clean, fresh drinking water. Research has shown that horses drink the most water when the temperature is between 45 and 65º F (yeah, they did a research study on this). Water-trough heaters, as well as heated water buckets, are crucial for cutting down on winter barn work and keeping your horses drinking all day long.
A simple way to insulate an in-pasture trough is by stacking bales of straw around it. Cover the top with a piece of plywood cut to ¾ the size of the opening to reduce freezing. Make sure that all rough edges and corners are smooth to avoid cuts and punctures. There are links at the end of this post for more ways to build winter water troughs.
Other ways to increase water consumption is to add half a teaspoon of table salt to each ration of feed to help encourage greater water intake. Sometimes horses won’t get enough salt if left to just lick a salt block, making loose salt necessary.
PREPARATION TIP: Make it a habit to fill any extra gallon-jugs or (clean) trash cans with water, and keep them in a spare warm room like a non-freezing garage area, or in your basement. The water reserves will leave you with enough water for emergencies for your horses during really bad storms.
By drinking plenty of water the fiber in the horse's lower digestive system will stay more hydrate and less likely to "ball up" and cause a blockage in the large intestine.
3. Grooming: A good grooming during a storm can relief tension and stress. If you clip and/or blanket your horse grooming is generally easy. Always be on the lookout for blanket rubs and be sure to keep moisture from under the blankets.
PREPARATION TIP: Trimming fetlock hair can help prevent scratches and ice-ball build-up on horses’ fetlocks and in their hooves for horses that are turned out but stabled.
However, horses that live outside full-time need the hair to keep their legs warm.
4. Protect medications. Check the labels of all injectable, topical and oral medications for information about proper storage. Many cannot withstand cold temperatures and will become useless, if not harmful, if they freeze.
PREPARATION TIP:Move cold-sensitive products in a climate-controlled tack room, or take them to your house for the storm.
FEET: Ask you farrier about borium and pads if daily turn out becomes a challenge.
Horses that live out should have their shoes pulled to avoid the formation of snow balls. This should be done well before the ground freezes so they don’t get foot sore.
Most horse owners will choose not to turn out during a storm. Once a storm has passed the horses will be itching to get out however.
STORM TIP: Using a non-stick cooking spray inside a cleaned foot, or line the hooves with petroleum jelly before you do can help stop snowballs from forming. You can also get a pair of Simple Boots by Cavallo or Old Macs.
5. LACK OF Exercise: Horses trapped inside during a storm lasting days can get “rammy” with all that pent up energy.
STORM TIP: Consider reducing the grain portion of their diets during the storm. Plenty of hay and fresh water will suffice.
Add toys to their stalls and hand walking in the aisle if possible. Exercise also supports gut motility and helps prevent colic.
6. Barn Chores: Everything is harder when it’s cold, frozen and covered in snow. During the storm just pile the manure in a corner of the stall and add just enough bedding to soak up the urine. Trying to navigate a wheel barrel through the snow is difficult at best.
STORM TIP: For those times when you need to get hay to the field or manure to the pile use a kid’s plastic sled to move it over snow.
7. Icy Surfaces: Horses can slip on the ice and fracture a leg as well as get hooves stuck in frozen divots and pull a tendon.
STORM TIP: If your horses live out in a run in but have access to move around try using water-softener salt pellets to melt through icy spots. Using roadway ice-melt can burn horses’ skin if they come in contact with it. You can also use sawdust (or soiled bedding) on mats, trailers, and entrance ways to prevent slippage in icy and snow conditions.
8. Barn Safety: Be vigilant about barn and run-shed safety. My son is an electrician and he told me the number one cause of any fire is overloaded circuits. Make sure the outlets are not full of too many extension cords and heaters. Also, make sure there are no dangling cords that can be tripped over or chewed.
PREPARATION TIP: Run extension cords through heavy-duty plastic pipe anywhere that horses could get to a cord. The pipe won’t conduct electricity if there’s a short circuit, and horses won’t chew through the pipe.
9. Trailering: Most horse owners will not have to trailer during a storm but keep extra bags of shavings in the clean horse compartment in case they need to be spread quickly for a trip to the vet.
PREPARATION TIP: Wrap the hitch of your trailer with bubble wrap and duct tape so it doesn’t get covered with ice and snow.
How To Make A Heated Water Trough:
How To Make A Solar Stock Tank:
Old Mac Boots:
Hope this help you get prepared for the coming winter storms! Feel free to add any TIPS you use in the comment section!
Til we meet again….