Monday, January 10, 2011

Cold Weather Care For Your Horses

Down here in sunny Georgia we rarely have to worry to much about very cold weather and snowy icy conditions.  Today is an exception though, and this is what makes it dangerous for our four legged friends.

Most horses, except the old, very young or ill, can cope with cold temperatures provided that they have grown warm woolly coats.  The danger comes when it is also wet.  Snow, freezing rain and sleet bring a whole new game to the ballpark.  If you have a stable or run in shed bring your horses in.  I don't have enough stalls for all my guys, so I have even doubled some up to keep them out of this weather.  The two colts are sharing, and Zero and Hochie, who love each other are sharing the run in shed.

If you don't have access to a stall or shed get to Tractor Supply and buy them a waterproof blanket.  You will need to get their coats as dry as possible before putting it on but this will help keep them from getting chilled.  If you put a blanket on a wet coat you could cause fungal skin conditions to develop, as fungus loves warm wet conditions to grow.  Dry them with old towels and handfuls of hay or straw to draw out the moisture.  A quick way to do this is pack loads of hay under a fleece throw and put the waterproof on top.  After an hour or so remove the now damp fleece.

The most important thing is to remember WATER!  Most of the hay we feed does not have a high moisture content and needs allot of water to keep it from impacting in their gut. Once an hour go out and break the ice off of the troughs and buckets.  Invest in a safe water trough heater if you have access to electricity.  Topping off the troughs and buckets with warm water from the house, and even adding molasses to it, will encourage them to drink.  I also add electrolytes to their feed to keep them wanting to drink.  If you don't have electrolytes, add 1/4 teaspoon of table salt to their feed.  Don't trust they are going to use their salt or mineral blocks this time of year.  Most horses that colic in the winter do so because they don't drink enough water to keep their guts hydrated!

Check that you are feeding good quality horse hay.  The hay should be sweet smelling, green and long stemmed.  Short stemmed hay adds to the impaction risk.  Having free range hay to munch on also keeps horses warm by keeping their metabolism active.  Feeding large round bales is ok if you have a hay ring to stop them urinating and defecating on it.  Otherwise feed it by unrolling it and giving it to them.  This prevents allot of wastage and makes sure they are eating clean hay.  If you have minis, foals or donkeys, or calves make sure you lay the round roles on their sides!!!  Every year numerous small equines are crushed by bales falling over on them as they eat from the bottom!!

Everyone stay warm and safe and look after those babies in this nasty weather!

1 comment:

  1. Lil Scout was out running around, scratching on his favorite tree, and in the process getting wet!!! Lil bugger!!!! Got a blanket that might fit the monster now, but not waterproof...gave them hay and going back out to check him soon.