Many of us horse owners like to give our four legged partners some much needed time off during the winter. Most of us are tempted to just cover them in a nice warm blanket and tuck them away for the winter. Even though this seems like a nice idea, you are actually doing your horse an injustice. Here are several winter horse care mistakes that we tend to make:
1. Lack of exercise – Horses need to be exercised all year long. It is nice to give them a break, but they need some sort of athletic stimulation. If possible, ride through the winter months. It does not have to be everyday but at least once a week. Lounge your horse when you are able to as well.
2. Overriding an out of shape horse – If you only ride your horse when the weather is nice, your horse is going to quickly become out of shape. Keep this in mind when riding your horse during the winter. Do not push them too hard if they are not getting the exercise they generally get during the spring and summer.
3. Over blanketing – Many of us tend to feel sorry for our horses and over blanket them during the winter months. Over blanketing can cause your horse to overheat if they are not properly trimmed. This can lead to dehydration and other health problems.
4. Over sheltering your horse – Although we might not want to be outdoors during the winter, our horses do! Let your horse go outside and get some fresh air. If there is bad weather, make sure there is a shelter for your horse to hide from the elements.
5. Lack of grooming – Even if your horse isn’t ridden every day, you should try to groom them at least every other day! Regular grooming helps your evaluate your horses weight, health, etc. This will alert you of illness, injury, weight loss, lost shoes, etc.
6. Lack of feed ration increases – Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian how much feed your horse should get during the winter months. When the temperature drops, your horse will burn more calories in order to keep themselves warm. This could cause considerable weight loss in some horses. Forage such as hay provides an excellent source of calories. Digestion of these calories also helps to keep your horse warm,
7. Lack of water – Letting your horse’s water freeze over can cause an array of problems. Horses need to have access to clean, fresh and unfrozen water. Snow and ice are not a good enough source of water for them. Horses can become sick and dehydrated during the winter months. The lack of water can also lead to impaction colic.
8. Neglecting hoof care – Horses need their feet taken care of during the winter months – shoes or not. Plan to have your farrier out every six to eight weeks, no matter what time of the year.
Giving your horse a much needed break during the winter months is not a bad thing, but don’t neglect the little things that need to be taken care of.
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