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!

3 Replies to “Around the Barn: Winter Preparations”

  1. I’m concerned my 16 year old mare recently relocated to Tennessee from Florida may have a hard time this winter. This info helped me in that I believe in the natural approach & hope “I”can refrain from wanting to blanket her. I’m hoping nature takes over & she grows a good coat for the difference in climate. Thank you for all the info you provide. She is on your Safe Choice Senior & doing very well. Holly Knowles

  2. I love your posts! I have had horses for nearly 50 years and did not ever blanket then. Now I have 2 Trakehners and 2 Quarter horses, one of them over 26 years. I blanket them beginning at about 38 degrees. I have recently moved them home and one of the first things I did was build a loafing shed for them. They go inside if they get too hot or if it is raining. The girls have rain sheets and mid weight, and heavy weight. In Alabama we do not get very much snow, but the cold rain is awful, especially for the old girl. My barn is out of the wind and last winter they stayed snug. Keep up the good work, it is a pleasure to have people give good advice that really makes a difference!

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