Winter health problems for horses

July 6th, 2017


Horse safety in winter is our number one priority; however no matter how much time we put in to protecting our horses, there are a number of potential illnesses and problems that can arise. Petplan will take a look at 5 problems that you and your horse could face this winter…


Many people think that because it is cold their horses won’t want to drink much which can lead to your horse suffering from dehydration. Research has proven that horses prefer to drink warmer water and in turn means that they will drink more, thus keeping hydrated. This can be quite hard to get them to drink more water during these colder months as the temperature can make it too chilly too drink.

There are some ways around this which include buying a tank or bucket heater; insulating the trough or where they drink from; or adding a little bit of salt can lower the freezing point as well as boost their sodium intake. Dehydration can contribute to a number of serious health risks for your horse like the increase in chance of colic.

Respiratory problems

The colder months can bring a weakened immune system, damp moldy hay, and an increased time in a dusty stable which can lead to an increased incidence of respiratory issues for horses. These factors can all contribute to an increased risk to developing a respiratory problem or aggravating an existing condition such as asthma.

To prevent your horse from suffering respiratory problems in winter, there are a few simple steps that you can take. These include; providing additional supplementation to support the immune system; checking your hay regularly to remove moldy parts; and checking for adequate ventilation in your stables.


Joint stiffness

The cold and damp conditions of winter can lead to severe joint stiffness and pain in horses that can be due to chronic conditions such as arthritis. Due to the weather, many horses tend to get less exercise in winter which can also play a part in joint stiffness as movement helps create heat in the body as well as keeping the body healthy and flexible.

To combat joint stiffness, limit the amount of time your horse spends in the stables. This is particularly important in older horses as once they lose mobility in the joints; it is normally a lot harder to get back. You can also add joint supplements to your horse’s diet, give their affected joints a massage or apply a natural rub to sooth the joints and muscles.


Due to the amount of muddy and wet conditions, hoof health is often neglected in winter. It can be a hassle to keep them clean and dry with continuous rainy weather, which can lead to your horse suffering from white line disease or thrush. Coating your horse’s hooves with antibacterial/anti-fungal treatments can go a long way to helping reduce the risk of hoof diseases, as well as keeping a high ground area dry within your stables in case the weather turns bad quickly.

Weight management

A potential health risk is horses losing weight during winter as they burn more calories to try and stay warm. To stop them losing weight, you may have to increase their feed loads. The simple act of digesting hay will not only give your horse the nutrients they need, it also keeps the body warm as the fermentation process generates internal heat. Leaving your horse an adequate supply of dry hay is the best option, or you can talk to your vet about other supplements you can give them if they still continue to lose weight.

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