With temperatures dropping into the teens throughout most of the country, now is the time to be aware of some common issues that many horse owners overlook during the winter. From routine health care to mouth care, are just some of the issues that should be addressed during the harsh days of winter.
Routine Health Care
There is a common misconception that during the cold winter months, de-worming is now required. Winter, actually, is an excellent time to de-worm and develop your de-worming rotation schedule. Winter conditions may prevent the hatching of some eggs, but there are still some internal parasite eggs that can survive cold temperatures. For this reason, horses need to be de-wormed throughout winter.
Also, it is very important to maintain a regular vaccination and health care schedule with your veterinarian.
No Hoof, No Horse..
Often, hoof care is overlooked during the winter as horses are ridden less frequently. Your horse’s hooves should be inspected daily and picked clean, especially during rainy periods when mud and manure can become packed within the hoof. There is a common practice with some owners to remove their horse’s shoes during the winter months, however regular farrier services is still required every 6 – 8 weeks to keep your horse’s hooves in good condition. I typically schedule my farrier every 4 weeks during the warmer months and every 5 – 6 weeks during the winter months as the hoof tends to not grow as quickly. If your horse requires shoeing during the winter months, you need to be even more vigilant to remove all snow and ice compacted within the foot. Speak to your farrier to see what options he may have to help prevent the snowball effect within your horse’s feet.
Some nutritionists recommend a hoof supplement during the winter consisting of biotin, amino acids, zinc and copper. However, a good supplement program should be kept throughout the year, to help keep the integrity of your horse’s hooves.
Many horse owners use a hoof conditioner during the winter months. As winter approaches, I switch to Effol Winter Hoof Gel for my horses. The heavier oil in the gel allows for penetration as the hoof becomes harder during the inter months. However, I have found that horse owners are very passionate about the hoof conditioners they use, and the key with any hoof conditioner is to keep the coronary band moisturized. This will ensure healthy hoof growth from the beginning.
Bits... Often Ignored
How many of you have held your horse's icy bit in your hands wishing it would warm up? Many riders often neglect the temperature of the bit. Yearly riding is very important, but using a cold, frozen bit can cause discomfort for your horse. Consider using a bit warmer to safely bring the bit temperature to a comfortable level for your horse.
There are several bit warmers on the market today from easy-to-use electric bit warmers to the small reuseable hand warmers. A quick search on the internet will help you find out which one would be suited for your use.
Water...Is your horse drinking?
No matter what the season, horses require anywhere from 8 to 12 gallons of water a day. Many equine veterinary practitioners note that there is a significant rise in colic (impaction)during the winter months, with the culprit being inadequate consumption of water due to cold water. Owners should be aware of the lower moisture content in their horse’s winter feed. While grass is more than 70 percent water, hay contains less than 10 percent moisture. By providing an adequate supply of clean warm water at a temperature of 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit your horse should stay well hydrated. There are several options available today aiding you in keeping the water temperature at a level that will encourage your horse to drink. Speak to your veterinarian or search the internet to find out which option would suit your needs.
Caring for horses over the winter months can be a difficult task with cold weather, frozen water, and strong winds. However, the better horses are maintained during the winter, the better condition they will be in once the weather warms and it is time to actively start riding again.