Winter is setting in, or should we say it’s well and truly here! At Ross Dhu, we know the temptation is to wrap your lovely horse up to keep them cosy and warm, by using blankets and a snug warm heated barn for the cold season. However, we would say ‘avoid the urge’ and remember that horses are outdoor creatures, and are better off if you refrain from wrapping them up in cotton wool. They like the outdoors and fresh air. Naturally, we’re not suggesting that you throw your horse outside to battle the Scottish winter, just that you ensure your horse stays healthy all season long by using common sense and making sure you follow our top tips for winter:
- Clean, fresh water – you need to make sure that he has clean, unfrozen drinking water so that he stays hydrated at all times.
- Increase food – your horse will burn more calories to stay warm, during the colder months. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about how much feed your horse needs during the winter. Increase roughage rather than hard feeding and remember to condition score your horse in case you need to adjust their feed rations. If you are not sure how to do this please consult with your vet. Remember, the horse has its own internal heating system through the process of digestion in the hind gut (roughage) and the function of the liver which keeps their core temperature at around 40oC irrespective of the external weather.
- Shelter from the harsh winter – all horses deserve and must have shelter, especially for night time. This doesn’t mean you need to close up the barn, as horses like humans like air to flow freely so they can breathe easily and don’t over heat.
- Grooming – ideally daily grooming and regular handling are both recommended during the winter to ensure you spot any problems such as illness, injury, weight loss, shoe damage.
- Let your horses natural winter coat grow and protect him – blankets aren’t necessary if your horse is cared for, has shelter from the elements, a good diet and is in good health. Horses are designed to regulate their body temperature by raising the hairs on their body (piloerection) increasing or decreasing the insulating factors depending on ambient temperature. An adult horse can change its coat density and thermoregulatory abilities by up to 30% just by moving the hairs on their body. If we put rugs on the horse this inhibits their ability to “fluff” themselves up to keep warm and in some cases, can actually make them feel colder.
- Hoof care – still a must, don’t stop just because it’s winter!
- Exercise is still important – even when it’s cold horses need and like to run around. So, you should continue riding and exercising your horse. If the Scottish snow hits so bad, that it’s not safe to ride, then we recommend you turn your horse out daily into a large paddock or similar area.
- Keep well and healthy – remember your horse is your responsibility no matter how ill you feel, so avoid sickness if possible to ensure you can continue to care for your horse.As always, if you are in any doubt about any of our top tips for keeping your horse healthy and save over the winter period. Then please do drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Morag on 01698 886 492 and we will be more than happy to provide advice and guidance.