Horse Nutrition Tips Heading in to Winter

Cooper and Ferris in a snowstorm
Ferris and Cooper enjoy turnout in the winter months; it keeps them fit and happy.

This is my favorite time of year!  It is a time of reflection and relaxation after the show season, when I have time to hit the trails and enjoy the fall colors without the bugs tagging along.   The leaves have changed and like it or not, Old Man Winter is right around the corner.  Shorter days and cooler temperatures are signaling our horses to grow their winter hair coats. 

With these seasonal changes, there are a few good management practices and considerations that can facilitate a smooth and stress free transition into the cooler months of the year. 

  • Salt: Make sure loose white salt along with fresh clean water is available to your horse(s) at all times.  Meeting this requirement helps keep your horse drinking, and may help prevent seasonally related colic episodes due to reduction in water consumption as the days get colder. 
    • Loose salt is preferable to a block, as horses are not partial to licking a cold block as temperatures fall, and may not consume enough to meet requirements.  However, a salt block is preferable to no salt at all.
  • Water: Provide water in an insulated or heated bucket/tub.  Research suggests that water kept between 40 – 65°F is preferable to cold water, and helps maximize consumption.  Make sure your water source is insulated or heated to prevent ice formation when temps dip down below freezing.
    • Check electrical wires and grounding to ensure everything is working properly and is safe.  All wires should be protected to prevent chewing or disconnection from the power supply.
  • Hay: Providing hay as an alternative to fresh pasture as grass goes dormant is a common practice to meet forage and increased energy requirements as it gets colder.  Stock up now!  Having a reliable source of good quality hay that will get you through the winter months is important. 
    • Long stemmed forage is the best, however hay cubes, complete feeds, hay stretchers or replacers can be good solutions if hay is scarce, too expensive, or of poor quality. 
  • Foot care: Having a chat with your farrier about your goals and your horses’ specific needs over the winter is advisable.  You may want to consider non-slip solutions or snow pads for horses that are shod, or potentially taking off shoes, and letting your horse go barefoot for a few months.  In any case, regular trimming and balancing should be continued throughout the winter months although frequency may go down due to slower rate of hoof growth during this time of year.
  • Check in with your veterinarian:  Fall is a good time to check in with your vet to make sure your horse is up to date on recommended vaccinations, dental care, and de-worming.

With a little extra preparation and effort, you and your horse can enjoy a wonderful winter together!

4 Replies to “Horse Nutrition Tips Heading in to Winter”

  1. Ok so you say table salt if my horse isnt eating her salt lick. So how much salt and how often would you give it to them she doesn’t lick hers at all so I am kinda worried as she consumes alot of water over the summer months it has gone down to more then half of the amount in the summer. SO I don’t want to give her to much or to little what is your suggestions? She is bout 900/1000 lbs she wasnt big on the salt in the winter so I added some jello and salt at times when it was extremley hot. hope to hear back from you thanks Lee Hagerty

    1. Hello Lee,

      Horses require 2-3 oz loose salt per day, or approximately 2-3 tablespoons/day. You can just leave white salt out free choice, or feed it along with your horse’s grain. The horse will regulate itself! Also, a palatable alternative would be a maintenance dose of Aqua Aide, a product available from Progressive Nutrition. You can find info at

      Also, to ensure optimum water intake in the winter months, provide water at all times, and ideally it should be kept at 40F or above. If the water is not heated, it needs to be free of ice chunks.

      Thank you ~ Emily L.

  2. A neighbor of mine has two miniature ponies. They’re out all the time, sun, rain, snow, storms He has them eat the field grass summer, winter, etc. There is very little interaction between the ponies and the owner. I called animal control because there is no shelter. My concern is just for the animals; what the owners do is not my concern. After I called animal control, he brought in an old horse trailer and put signs out in front of it that say pony shelter sweetheart directly across from my home. We occasionally give them apples. What do you think?

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Thank you for your question about the 2 miniature horses/ponies that your neighbor has across from you in a field. Animal welfare laws vary from state to state regarding shelter requirements. Food, water and shelter are the basic requirement for all animals. Animal control or welfare organization is in the best position to determine if the levels are adequate. If you observe that the animals appear to lack food, water or shelter, then appropriate action is to get back in touch with animal control. The owner may not appreciate it, but the animals certainly will!

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