Winter can be a tough time when it comes to you and your horses, especially if you have older horses. As the weather and ground cool, significant grass growth may not occur until well into spring. This is why it is important to be prepared and knowledgeable about the winter months in order to keep your horses happy and healthy.
- It is important to get your horse in good shape for winter by feeding on pasture and hay while the quality is still there during the warmer months. They should be coming into winter as healthy as possible for them to be able to fight off the cold and sickness. If your horse tends to lose weight during the colder months, you can feed them a little more beforehand to get a little extra conditioning to be sure they don’t become overly skinny.
- When it comes to stocking up for winter, your best option is to buy hay in summer as stocks are up. The closer to winter you start buying your hay, the more expensive it will be – and generally lesser quality.
- Forage should be a major part of your horse’s diet in the winter months. It not only provides the much needed calories they need to maintain weight, it will also keep your horse warm as it gets digested.
- A waterproof/winter rug is the best way to keep your horse warm over winter.
- When it comes to rugging your horse, you will need to remove it at least weekly to check on your horse’s body condition. Condition scoring relates to checking your horse, particularly around the withers, neck, ribs and the loin to assess the amount of body fat. This will leave you with a good indication if your horse is losing weight and what you need to do for them to become healthier. It is also beneficial when the sun is out in those colder winter days to allow the horse to be rug free to avoid itching as well.
- As these months can be harsh for not only your horse but all animals, it is imperative that you continue to keep a close eye on them and note any changes in behaviour, manure, and weight. It is also important to maintain check-ups and medication such as worming tablets. If in need, get a vet to take a look at your horse to prevent any serious problems down the track.