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  • Coastal Equine

It’s That Time of Year Again!

Winterizing Your Horse

Dietary Considerations

•Horses should not lose weight over the winter.

•A small fat layer going into winter is key.

•Increase plain of nutrition now to get ready for winter.

Feeding Basics

•Determine if horse’s current BCS is desirable.

•Estimate horse’s weight. Use a weight tape!

•Calculate the appropriate amount of feed required. Increase by 0.5% if horse is in moderate work. (Moderate work is considered 45-60 minutes of increased heart or respiratory rate at 5-6 days/week.)

•Weigh your average flake of hay. Calculate how many flakes he needs to meet the daily requirements.

•Can your horse eat enough hay to meet all caloric requirements? Does he need a concentrate?

Caloric Requirements

A horse should eat 2 to 2 ½ % of its ideal body weight in feed per pound per day. For an average 1000 lb. horse that is: 20 to 25 pounds of total feed per day

At least half of that should come from roughage. Grain should only supplement the ration.


•No grazing available in the winter!

•Not all hay is created equally. Hay analysis is the only way to know how “nutritious” your hay is.

•Can your horse physically eat hay? Does poor dentition prevent him from grinding hay?

•Is there enough time in the day for him to eat as much as he needs?


•Concentrated calorie source

•“Balances” the ration (added fat, protein, etc.)

•Makes up for vitamin/mineral deficiencies in hay

•Chosen based on horse’s age, body type, type of work he is in and daily requirements

•Crucial for horses that cannot eat hay!

•Consult me (your veterinarian) to decide which grain is best for your horse.

Never underestimate the value of WATER!

•Water is necessary for life! (8-12 gallons/day)

•Reduced intake when temperatures fall

•Reduced water intake + increased forage consumption = increased chance of impaction colic

•Warm to 45 to 65 degrees (40% increase in water intake when a horse is offered warm water!)

•Keep trough in sunniest part of paddock.

•Basketball or soccer ball in trough helps prevent freezing

•Bank dirt around sides of trough to insulate it.

•Water heaters, automatic waterers, heated buckets—check for electrical shorts


•Old school theory: rotational deworming every 6 to 8 weeks

•New school thought: Strategic deworming!

•Rotational and daily dewormers have contributed to severe parasite resistance.

•Twice yearly fecal egg counts (spring and fall)

•Tapeworms are the only parasite not shed in manure.

•Must protect against tapeworms every 6 months (eg. Equimax, ZimectrinGold) even if egg count is zero.

•Pick up the manure

Winter Exercise

•Maintains horse and rider fitness levels

•Prevents horse boredom

•Training, trail-riding, driving, etc.

Remember that during winter weather, a horse will need to be cooled out for up to 45 minutes after exercise.

To Blanket or Not to Blanket? That is the question.

Blanket clips help prevent sweat saturation while keeping the horse warm. A quarter sheet keeps the horse’s haunches and loins warm while being ridden.

The Horse’s Coat

•Horse’s coat is 1st line of defense against cold

•When allowed to grow, the coat is a very effective thermal blanket.

•Shorter days: increased length and density of hair

•Naturally greasy to repel snow

•Do not clip ears, fetlocks, etc.

•Can “fluff” coat to trap air layer for insulation

•Wet hair cannot insulate itself.

Can horses get Frostbite?

Yes, and no…


•Personal choice

•Necessary for clipped horses or those who have not been acclimated to the cold (e.g. shipped from warmer climate)

•Waterproof – yes!

•Remove blanket daily, groom and assess body condition score.

•Remember a flat hair coat with a poor blanket is worse than no blanket at all.

•Ears are a good indicator of temperature.

•If the horse is shivering, s/he is cold!

Shelter Considerations

•Must be able to escape bitter wind and moisture

•Three-sided shed – open side opposite prevailing wind, 80 square feet per horse, back wall 9’ high, 11-12’ tall at opening, 4-6’ overhang, good drainage

•Keep barns open to promote airflow. Ammonia build-up in barns is very damaging to respiratory tract.

Barn Preparation

•Ensure enough stored feed, bedding and hay is in a dry, rodent-proof area

•Insulate above ground water piping. Insulate or heat water buckets.

•Resist the urge to close every door and window.

•Have electrical wiring checked. Clear all cobwebs from light fixtures.

Please use common sense and don’t turn your horse out when there is ICE!

Here in the South winter can be a wonderful time to ride. Enjoy the cooler temperatures!

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