Question: What can I do to keep my horse healthy and safe through severe cold temperatures?
Answer: With winter in full swing, and high temps expected below zero, there are a few things you can do to try to ensure that your horse comes through a cold snap without issue.
Blankets can help, allowing them to burn less calories to stay warm. There are a couple important points when using blankets 1) Make sure that the horse is dry before the blanket goes on, 2) Make sure it is a proper fit for that horse and that the straps are adjusted correctly 3) Frequent observation of the horse, to assure that the blanket is still properly positioned. With these points in mind, a blanket can be very useful to help in these situations.
Water becomes very important in cold temperatures, as it is well documented the horses can drink up to 25% less water during these times. If you are using water heaters, make sure that they are functioning correctly, and if not using heaters, be sure to be breaking ice on a very regular basis. To increase your horse’s water intake, you can use electrolyte supplementation. One dose of electrolytes (either powder in their feed, or oral paste) given once a day, can significantly drive thirst, and help prevent issues relating to reduced water intake.
Feed is an important source of heat for our equine friends. The digestion process of horses is a heat releasing reaction. The longer that it takes for a particular feed to be digested, the longer it generates heat and body warmth. Roughage (i.e. Hay) produces heat for a longer period of time than grains or concentrated/ processed feeds.
Shelter from the elements, especially the wind, is very important in keeping horses warm. For pastured horses, wind breaks or trees provide ample “shelter.” Those horses lucky enough to have a closed barn face another potential health hazard. When horses are kept in closed quarters with minimal ventilation for days at a time, there can be a significant built up of ammonia. With this in mind, and ventilation limited, keeping stalls clean and well bedded helps to minimize this buildup.
Taking these few tips might help your horse through cold times, and prevent a visit from your friends here at Mobile Vet! Be safe and careful in the cold!