6 TIPS FOR WINTER! How to prepare your horse and hit spring in full stride.

Posted by Tilly Booth on

Our top 6 tips for winter
...how to prepare your horse and hit spring in full stride!

We've put together some helpful tricks that you can use to get your horse through winter in tip-top shape. 
 
Winter weather can be hard on horses, and it can be a difficult time to maintain condition and general health. There is a lot you can do though to prepare them, but the first step is to understand what the winter weather means for your horse. 
A horse in the wild would start to build up their body condition in the autumn, so they have a little bit of extra padding to help keep them warm and to burn over the winter months.  As ‘managers’ of our horse’s diets, we need to help them replicate this natural reaction.
  • Make sure your horse is in good condition in autumn
  • Good condition helps insulate, and lowers the amount of heat loss
  • To add some calories, especially for older horses, add 20-60mls of linseed or canola oil to their feed 
Fibre has the most benefit for warmth!
Horses can produce warmth through digestion, and a diet high in fibre and forage is the best way for them to do this. They need a minimum fibre intake of
1.5% of their body weight! 
  • Look at fibre sources other than pasture, as pasture often loses feed value & growth in winter
  • Increase their fibre intake for winter through hay and feed
  • High quality fibre provides more calories
Read more about the value of fibre...
Cold temperatures increase your horse's need for energy, because they use energy to maintain their body temperature. If their dietary energy consumption is too low, they will need to use their reserves, and start to lose condition. 
The harsher conditions can also put added pressure on their vital functions and immune system. 
  • Make sure your feed is catering for all of their nutritional requirements - you need to check the feeding guide on the back of the bag.
  • If you aren't feeding the recommended amount for your feed, you need to supplement your horse
Read more about the nutritional requirements in winter...
Cold weather can mean stiff joints!
Cold exposure has been shown to increase stiffness in muscle and connective tissue. This can cause joint pain, stiffness and discomfort, and increase the effects of arthritis, especially in older horses. 
  • Make sure you increase your warm up time in cold weather 
  • Keep your horse moving, don't let cold weather put you off riding or lunging. Not only does this keep their joints limber, it helps your horse stay warm too!
  • Add a joint supplement like Dodson & Horrell's Mobility. Mobility is a herbal blend that has had great results freeing up horses movement. 
Read more about Mobily and BUY ONLINE here...
Muddy and wet conditions can make it difficult to maintain good hoof health for your horses. Standing in mud or water for extended periods can soften the hoof tissue leaving it susceptible to conditions like white line disease and thrush, and increasing the risk of bruises and abscesses. 
  • Give your horse time on dry surfaces, through stabling or dry islands (raised areas of sand and gravel) in their paddocks. 
  • Maintain extra hoof care - clean their hooves out regularly to get rid of mud, stones and pathogens. 
  • Make sure their feed is meeting their nutritional requirements. A healthy horse is a healthy foot. 
  • Add a joint supplement like Dodson & Horrell's Firm Foot. It contains seaweed which is rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals for hoof care.  
Read more about Firm Foot and BUY ONLINE here...
The weather in autumn can often give you small green shoots in your pastures. This fresh growth can be full of Non-Structural Carbohydrates, which are very risky for laminitis-prone horses! Stressed pastures can also be risky to these horses, and conditions in autumn and winter often cause stress in pasture. 
  • Reduce their grazing time on green pastures
  • Monitor the conditions, and only graze at the safest time of day i.e. mornings (watch out for frosts though!)
  • If in doubt, it is better to have them on a suitable hay
  • Try a laminitis supplement like Dodson & Horrell's Lami-Free which has been shown to support the laminae
Read more about managing laminitic horses in autumn 
 
If you're unsure about your horse's dietary requirements, or want to make a change, we offer a free custom feed plan from our expert Equine Nutritionist Jill Davies. 

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