Prepare Your Horse For The Winter Months

Toby Snow 28Throughout the year, tending to your horse’s needs requires you to be prepared for a variety of conditions. When the temperature falls and the winds grow colder, you should be prepared with the proper gear, supplies and accessories to keep your horse healthy and happy during the upcoming months. Learn more about caring for your horse during the winter so you can be prepared well before the first frost.

Water and Food

  • Food for Health and Warmth. Food digestion is a primary source of warmth for your horse, which means your horse’s caloric needs can increase during the colder months. Use quality forage, combined with grain, as recommended by an equine nutritionist to sustain warmth and maintain caloric intake.
  • Wintertime Hydration. Even though your horse might eat snow while it’s outside, fresh water is still important for wintertime hydration. A supply of (non-frozen) water, ideally above 45 degrees, will keep your horse hydrated and aid in digestion.
  • Mouth Health. Healthy teeth and mouth allow your horse to drink and eat without discomfort. It’s wise to have an equine veterinarian check your horse’s teeth and mouth to ensure he can eat comfortably and maintain the right caloric intake for weight maintenance throughout winter.

Comfort and Warmth

  • Your Horse’s Natural Coat. If possible, allow your horse’s coat to grow during the winter months. Its natural thickness provides your horse with the extra insulation needed to keep its body warm as the weather gets colder, as a layer of warm air is trapped below the surface.
  • Provide Extra Warmth. There are times when you must clip your horse’s coat to keep them cool while working in the winter or in preparation for a show . For this reason, or because you’ve got an older horse, extra warmth can increase the horse’s comfort throughout winter. A waterproof, breathable blanket or coat will come in handy for days when your horse needs an extra layer to stay warm.
  • Shelter During Winter. The warmest natural coat isn’t always enough to protect your horse from cold temperatures. A strong wind can cut right through it, and a wet coat can quickly lose its insulating ability. Provide your horse with shelter from wind, snow and rain so it can enjoy pasture time and still have access to an area that will protect it from the elements.
  • Wintertime Riding. When riding your horse during the winter months, be careful to warm them up properly and ensure any sweaty areas are fully dried since this can cause the horse to later become chilled. Likewise, maintain care of horse riding tack and the proper saddle so that it doesn’t become cracked and dry from the cold air, causing it to become less effective.

Tending to Health

  • Controlling Parasites. Consult with the equine veterinarian for wintertime parasite control. Once the first frost has occurred, you may want to give your horse something to kill bot larvae.
  • Barn Pest Control. People and horses aren’t the only creatures that seek warm places in wintertime. Other pests are likely to find their way into the barn. Discourage and control pests by keeping food storage in sealed containers. Likewise, store blankets, leather products and other materials that could be used for nests in sealed storage spaces.
  • Vaccinations. Good health is pivotal to staying comfortable and warm from the first frost until the temperatures begin to rise again. Part of your effort to maintain your horse’s health should include any necessary vaccinations as autumn transitions to winter.
  • Take Care of Hooves. Hoof growth occurs throughout the year. Maintain hoof care year-round. Consider having your farrier use winter studs for traction and snowball pads to keep snow from accumulating inside the bottom of the hoof.

Wintertime Storage

Make it easy to access everything you need throughout the winter months by putting away the seasonal items you won’t need again until spring. By organizing your barn storage space, you can avoid wasting time searching for supplies and spend it grooming or caring for your horse. In conjunction with preparing your horse for winter, you can also be prepared by getting organized and ready to spend quality time with your equine friend this winter.

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

5 Replies to “Prepare Your Horse For The Winter Months”

  1. Well done Ashley! It sure is perfect to prepare and nurse your horse in the cold season. It is like taking care of your child and providing him with the basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Keep it up looking forward for your next posts.

  2. I just purchased a beautiful Black and White Tobiano Mare , She is beautiful.
    She is 2 1/2 years old and a sweetheart. She is 15.3 hands tall.
    I have not been involved with horses for over 40 yrs. Now that I’m retired I just wanted to get back to my child hood dream.
    I would appreciated all the help I can get in the proper care and feeding of her, everyone has so many different Versions of what to do for her, their advice is so confusing , I need to know if i am doing the correct feeding and care for her. Please help .
    I love her so much I may overly protect her, to her ruin.
    What ever advice I can get I would appreciate it sooo much.




    1. Hi Sharon, Thanks for your question, and congratulations on your new mare! There is far too much to caring for horses to capture it all in one reply to you, so while we have a few key points we can sum up for you, we’d encourage you to spend time on our blog reading articles, as well as join a saddle club in your area if possible, and seek the advice of those closest to you who can be there to help you with hands-on activities with your mare!

      A few key tips:
      1. Make sure she has free access to clean cool water. This is the most important thing!
      2. Seek a quality hay supplier! Consistent, quality, available forage for your mare is a must. A good grass or grass/alfalfa mix from a reputable supplier should do her just fine. Make sure she gets 1.5 – 2.0% of her bodyweight per day in hay. That’s 15 – 20 lbs for a 1,000 lb horse.
      3. Make sure she has shelter of some kind – even a simple lean-to in her paddock is sufficient, but somewhere she can escape the elements if she desires.
      4. Feed – make sure you find a quality feed that meets her needs. She’s mostly done growing at her age, and unless you plan to be riding hard & often, a maintenance type feed would be ideal. SafeChoice Special Care, or Empower Balance, would be two great options for her. If those aren’t available in your area, look for ones with similar nutrient profiles & feeding rates.
      5. Find a good farrier & vet in your area. Ask other horse owners for recommendations, and don’t be afraid to meet them & “interview” them prior to actually needing their services, if it makes you more comfortable!
      6. Lots of love & interaction! Enjoy her!

      Best of luck ~ Gina T.

  3. I really like your tip about making sure the horse is warmed up properly before taking them for a ride in the winter. My uncle owns a few horses and lets us ride them in the summer, but in the winter he’ll take them out so that they can get the exercise they need during the cold months. I will be sharing these horse winter care tips with my uncle.

  4. Thank you for your tip about how the warmest natural coat isn’t always enough to protect your horse from cold temperatures, and strong wind can cut right through it, and a wet coat can quickly lose its insulating ability, so you should provide your horse with shelter from wind, snow, and rain. I just recently bought a horse and want to make sure that I’m giving it the care that it needs during the winter. I will definitely keep your very useful tips in mind when caring for my horse!

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