Winter Horse Care


Horse owners need to monitor a horse’s nutrition requirements carefully during cold weather, and adjust their feeding program to meet their needs.

Horses usually require additional energy from their diet during cold weather to maintain body temperature and body condition. They’ll use this energy to keep warm in one of two ways, heat as a by-product of normal metabolic processes or heat generated from microbial fermentation of forages. More heat is produced from the microbial fermentation of forages, so feeding additional hay/forage is the best way to keep the horse warm. Aim for 1.5% of the horse’s weight in hay or forage each day (1.5 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight). An almost constant supply of forage/hay is important in keeping horses warm in the winter. The fermentation of forages in the horse’s hindgut produces heat that a diet of an all-grain diet can’t supply. Feeding several small meals a day of a high-fiber complete feed, like F-R-M Trail Boss Complete 12 Nuggets is an excellent way to provide a large proportion of a horse’s nutrient needs, including fiber. Feeding soaked alfalfa cubes several times a day in addition to their regular hay and/or feed is another way to provide extra hydration, forage for warmth, and energy for body condition, while extending your supply of hay if it is in short supply.

If you are feeding clean older hay, it doesn’t have optimum levels of some vitamins, but it still gives the horse something to chew on, which can prevent cribbing, and other bad habits. Older hay that is clean can be moistened before feeding to make it more palatable, and the vitamins that older hay is missing can be made up by adding a vitamin-mineral supplement like F-R-M Horse Mineral or F-R-M Vitaminde 10 (1.5:1) Complete Mineral.

Water is important year-around, but horses don’t usually consume as much during the winter months since they are not as active and because the water is very cold; they prefer it around 45 to 65 degrees F. Lush pastures are gone, so consumption of more dried feedstuffs like hay means they need to consume more water. It’s important to monitor water consumption to prevent dehydration and colic.
Provide a vitamin/mineral supplement like F-R-M Horse Mineral or F-R-M Vitaminde 10 (1.5:1) Complete Mineral, or at least trace mineral salt blocks free choice.

Check with your veterinarian for a deworming schedule to kill parasites that could interfere with digestion.

With a little extra attention, horse owners can help their horses emerge from winter healthy and in good condition.

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