7 Winter Tips for Horse Health & Safety

horse in snow

Winter is fast approaching around the country. That means below-freezing temperatures, wind, cold rain, and of course snow and ice for many areas across the US. If you’re planning to keep your horses outdoors this winter, it’s important to plan for their health and comfort as cold weather approaches.

Here are some tips to get your horses through the winter, while keeping them safe, healthy, and comfortable.

#1 – Provide the Right Shelter

Horses tolerate cold weather much better than their human counterparts, growing a thick coat that protects them from snow and extreme temperatures. In fact, most horses are healthier when they are left outdoors during the winter. However, it’s still important to provide proper shelter.

According to The Horse magazine, “Cold temperatures alone don’t generally make horses uncomfortable, but wind and moisture can be difficult for them to tolerate, so they must be able to escape the elements. The best solution is a structural shelter that is big enough to allow all of the horses in that field to safely get out of the weather. “

Horse barns or shelters that are enclosed on 3 of 4 sides make ideal shelters for most horses. The enclosed area is protected from wind, driving rain, and snow, while the open side provides plenty of fresh air.

At Newmart Builders, we offer quality horse barns and shelters that provide the protection your horse needs to escape the elements this winter and year-round. In fact our steel buildings are endlessly configurable and attractively designed to provide years of trouble-free service. Plus, unlike traditional barns, our steel pole barns go up quickly at a fraction of the cost of traditional construction.

#2 – Don’t Let Water Freeze

While fresh water is essential at any time of year, it can be particularly challenging to keep horses adequately hydrated during the winter months. Water supplies can freeze, making water undrinkable. When horses are not properly hydrated they are at greater risk of developing impaction colic, a serious condition that results in severe abdominal discomfort.

It’s important to understand that snow or frozen water is not a substitute for fresh water. In order to ensure your horse’s water does not freeze, consider installing heated water tubs or non-freezing automatic watering systems.

#3 – Feed Extra Calories

Horses that are kept outdoors during the winter months burn significantly more calories to stay warm. To avoid weight loss, and keep your horse warmer, feed high-quality hay, especially if you turn your horses out regularly. Hay is an excellent source of calories and its high fiber content actually releases heat during digestion, keeping horses warmer.

Older horses or horses suffering from serious dental disease may not be able to eat enough hay to get the required calories. In these instances, it’s a good idea to offer a senior feed that is easier for them to consume. If you have questions about the proper caloric intake for your horses, always consult your veterinarian.

#4 – Make Sure Your Horse Gets Enough Exercise

Just because it is cold outside, that doesn’t mean your horses don’t need exercise. Just like humans, horses benefit from regular exercise all year-round. If you change your riding schedule throughout the winter months, be sure your horse still gets enough exercise. You can do this by turning out your horse daily in a large pasture or paddock. You might also consider lunging your horse if it is safe to do so.

#5 – Continue Regular Grooming

Even if you aren’t riding your horse during the winter months, regular grooming is still important. In fact grooming is one of the best ways to monitor your horse’s health and strengthen the bond between horse and rider. Grooming should be done daily in order to discover illness, lost shoes, injuries, weight loss, cracked hooves, and more. Catching problems early can reduce suffering and get your horse back on the track to good health much sooner.

#6 – Provide Blankets Only When Needed

While you may take pity on your horse as you watch him in the pasture from your cozy window view, it’s important to know that your horse probably isn’t as cold as you think. In fact, healthy horses, with their natural winter coat intact, don’t require blanketing, as long as they receive adequate nutrition and access to shelter.

However, clipped horses and older horses who aren’t as able to manage their body temperatures do need to be blanketed throughout the winter when they spend a lot of time outdoors. Owners who choose to blanket their horses should start using blankets early in the season, so the horses have time to adapt to wearing them.

#7 – Protect Their Footing

Most horses can walk easily in snow, but ice can be a big problem, resulting in falls and fractured bones. Be sure to regularly check surfaces where your horses walk and add snow melt to minimize slippery conditions.

Horses that are shod and kept in snowy areas may benefit from the application of special pads to prevent snow buildup inside their shoes. This buildup can create uneven footing that leads to injury.

Also be sure to keep driveways and other access areas free of snow and ice so you and your veterinarian always have access to your horses, particularly in emergencies.

As you can see, horses are very well adapted to living outdoors throughout the winter, especially when you take the time to provide for their needs. Of course, getting the essentials right is most important including providing plenty of water, the right nutrition, and proper shelter from the elements.

If you’re looking to upgrade your existing horse shelter or build a new one, now is the time. Newmart Builders offers top-quality, durable steel buildings that can protect your horses this winter. Contact us at 1-800-547-8480 to get started!