Winter Horse Care

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Last winter, The Humane Society of Utah investigated 57 complaints of horses without adequate feed, water and shelter. Winter is here and it is vital for horse owners to provide a quality winter care program.

Pastures, stalls, and corrals should be kept clean, including the removal of boards, nails, loose bailing wire or twine, and machinery which might cause injuries.

Horses should enter winter in the best physical condition (flesh) of the year -- their ribs shouldn't be seen but should be able to be felt with slight hand pressure.

A regular parasite, hoof, and teeth care program is critical to maintain good health. Keep vaccinations current, especially tetanus. Stabled or corralled horses should be wormed every two months, while those on pasture should be wormed every three months. Regular veterinary examinations are strongly recommended.

Horses turned out in winter pasture should have their shoes removed. Stabled horses should have their feet examined and picked daily. Hooves should be trimmed every eight to ten weeks.

Colder weather requires higher energy, resulting in the need for increased nutrition. Horses need a minimum of 1.5 -2.0 pounds of quality hay/day per 100# of body weight. For the best results, feed often, on a regular daily schedule and in small amounts. Feed up, off the ground and watch out for domination of foodstuffs by other horses.

Snow doesn't provide adequate water, as eating snow robs the horse of body heat. A 1,000# horse requires from 8-12 gallons of water/day or it may develop impaction colic, a severe form of constipation.

A horse in good flesh, with a thick winter coat can withstand a lot of cold in still air, but wind ruffles the coat and lets the warm air next to its hide escape. If an enclosed shelter isn't available, a good windbreak allows the animal to escape a direct wind flow.

Good shelter is a dry, draft-free, tightly-roofed, three-sided, shed facing south or east, with 60-80 square feet per horse. The opening should be 11-12' high, with a back wall minimum of 9' high. An overhang of 4-6' helps prevent rain and snow from blowing inside. The shelter should be well-drained and bedded. The floor should be higher than the surrounding ground.

Pastured animals and their surroundings should be inspected at least 3 times/week. Horses that are stabled or corralled should be inspected at least once a day, and preferably several times a day.