Winter Horse Care Must-Haves

As with any season, winter has a few must-Dover Saddlery Winter Horse Care Must Haveshave horse care items that will help to keep your horses happy and healthy during the colder months. Read on to discover a few items that will be helpful in any barn this winter.

The Perfect Winter Horse Blanket

Not all horse blankets are created equal. In fact, there are several types of blankets that are made for a wide variety of horse sizes, personalities and activity levels. A sheet, medium-weight blanket and a heavy blanket with a neck cover are three types of blankets that would be beneficial for many horses in the winter. A turnout sheet can also provide an additional level of warmth and protection when layered over stable blankets. Below are a few pointers on the types of blankets that are winter must-haves.

  • Turnout Sheet: A turnout sheet is the perfect option for sunny winter days, when the temperatures are still above freezing. A good turnout sheet should be durable, waterproof and fit comfortably over your horse’s indoor stable blankets to allow for multiple uses.
  • Medium Turnout Blanket: A medium turnout blanket should be used as the temperature starts to drop. The medium turnout blanket will have a liner that attaches to the exterior shell or be made with insulating materials. Brands such as WeatherBeeta, Rambo and Rhino all make good medium turnout blankets that can be used throughout the winter.
  • Heavy Turnout Blanket with Neck Cover: A heavy turnout blanket with a neck cover is the ideal blanket for freezing temperatures. As the name suggests, the heavy blanket is the warmest option, and the neck cover provides much needed protection for your horse’s neck, especially if he is clipped. A heavy turnout blanket with a neck cover can be used in combination with a light sheet for extremely chilly winter days.

Winter Horse Care Supplies

There are several other types of horse care supplies that can be useful in the colder winter months. From wound care to extra hoof-picks, adding the following items to your supply list will help make for a smooth winter:

  • First-aid kit: Stock up on supplies such as vet-wrap, Betadine, gauze, Corona ointment, a thermometer and tri-care wound ointment.
  • Extra hoof picks: During the winter your horse’s feet can become packed with debris, snow, ice and mud. Be sure to keep extra hoof picks handy to remove ice balls and help keep your horse from getting thrush and other hoof ailments.
  • SleekEZ or Shed ‘n’ Blade: Shedding products can help encourage healthy winter coat growth. As horses’ hair grows, the SleekEZ or Shed ‘n’ Blade can be used to get rid of the old hair and help new, healthy hair grow.
  • Clippers: Clippers, as well as a variety of clipper blades, come in handy during the winter for body clipping your horse if necessary. Body clipping can be beneficial if your horse regularly works up a sweat while being ridden, as it will help the horse cool down faster and avoid catching a chill.
  • Extra food, water and supplements: Being prepared is the best method for keeping your horses healthy and happy during the winter months. Keep extra grain, hay, jugs of water, bran and additional supplements on hand for use during inclement weather. It is also a good idea to stock up on a few extra bags of shavings or straw — extra bedding will come in handy on the days that the weather is too harsh for turnout.
  • Heated buckets: If you don’t have warm water to fill your horse’s water buckets, then you should consider purchasing heated buckets. In order to help keep your horse happy and healthy, it is important to have access to unfrozen water to help stay hydrated.
  • Leather care and tack room heaters: During the winter it is easy for leather tack to become cracked and dry. With this in mind, try to keep your tack room warm. Leather conditioners, soap and oil can be used to keep your saddles, bridles and other horse tack clean and supple during the harsh winter months.

As you prepare for the winter weather, remember that it is always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Throughout the winter, stay tuned to weather updates and remember to keep an extra supply of food, fresh water, bedding and blankets handy at all times.

Ashly Snell works at Dover Saddlery and enjoys eventing with and caring for her two Dutch Warmbloods. She has been an avid equestrian for 20 years.

Around the Barn: Winter Preparations

Even though this is a horse nutrition blog, nutrition is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping your horses happy and healthy.  As we head in to cold winter months, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips for prepping your horse and some of the gear that goes with him!

  • Blanketing:  In general, horses adapt well to decreasing temperatures by growing an insulating hair coat.  As long as they have shelter to get out of wind and precipitation, and are able to meet their increased energy (calorie) requirement, they do quite well and can tolerate sub-zero temperatures. 
    • Keep in mind, the insulating value of the hair coat is compromised if it gets wet.  As temperatures drop below the critical temperature which is around 50°F on average, horses require more energy to stay warm, which is best provided by increasing the forage in their diet, not grain. 
    • Blanketing may be a good option if:
      • There is no shelter during turn out
      • The horse’s hair coat is clipped
      • You have a very young or very old horse that might not be efficient at maintaining body temperature
      • The horse is under-conditioned or under weight
    • Finding a blanket that fits well, is waterproof, breathable, and the proper weight (light, medium, heavy fill) based on the conditions are important considerations. 
    • If you already own blankets, dig them out before you need them and check to ensure they are clean, in good repair, and still fit your horse properly. 
    • Never blanket a wet horse, or put a wet or damp blanket on a horse.
  • Don’t forget to periodically remove the blanket and assess body condition, and check for any rub marks that the blanket may be causing.
  • Winterizing the barn and trailer: Fall is a good time to prepare your barn and trailer for colder weather.  Cleaning, installing or checking insulation, replacing screens with windows, ensuring ventilation is adequate, insulating water sources, cleaning and safety-checking heaters and electrical systems, are recommended.  
    • In the barn:
      • Check the roof for structural integrity and leaks
      • Clean gutters and install snow slides if needed
      • Plan for snow removal and de-icing walkways, if applicable.
    • In the trailer
      • Check the floor, lights, brakes, and tires and replace or provide maintenance as needed. 
      • Put together an emergency kit for you and your horse in the event of a break-down in winter weather. 
      • If you are on the road frequently, consider road-side-service for equestrians in the event of an emergency. 

Good luck, stay safe, and take a moment to enjoy the site of your horse playing in the snow if you are lucky enough to see some!