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Winterizing Your Horse


The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) website offers the following tips for making sure you and your horse are ready for winter:

1) Blanket maintenance-Horses that stay in work and/or compete in winter usually need to be blanketed. Check that blankets still fit, and that they are clean and in good repair before you need them.

2) Assess body condition. Evaluate your horse for being too thin or too fat before winter hits. Feel over his ribs; a healthy layer of fat over the ribs is good. If he’s a little thin, it’s easier to fatten him up before he starts burning extra calories in the cold.

3) Check your horse’s teeth.  Make sure your horse is not dropping and wasting his food because of dental issues. He needs all the calories you give him to maintain weight through the winter, and you don’t need to waste money on an elevated “grocery” bill.

4) Adjust feed. As temperatures get colder, nutrient and calorie requirements increase, so adjust accordingly. For more calories, increase forage first (hay, beet pulp, etc.)instead of concentrates, especially if you don’t ride in the winter. Make all changes gradually. (For every 10 degrees F below freezing, the hay ration should be increased by 10%)

5) Focus on forage. Stock up on good quality hay and store in a dry area. Check your sheds and roofs for wet weather blowing in or leaks. Buy tarps.

6) Care for the coat.  unless your horse needs a blanket for showing, etc. let it grow for natural, fluffy insulation. If using a blanket, don’t use a heavy or tight one as it will flatten the coat, making it compressed and less insulating.

7) Tend to the hooves. Have a good trim. Ask if your horse even needs shoes in the winter. Control mud as much as possible.

8) Promote hydration. Check your tank heaters or heated buckets regularly. Check that electrical cords are in good repair and protected from possible chewing or other damage. Provide free choice salt blocks. If the horses aren’t using them (some won’t), add 1T non-iodized table salt to the feed ration. Adequate water intake in winter helps prevent impaction colic.

9) Control parasites.  Give an ivermectin type dewormer after the first hard frost to get rid of bot larvae in the gut.

10) Ask your vet about vaccination boosters for respiratory and other infectious diseases, especially if travelling to indoor events where there are many horses enclosed with less than ideal ventilation.

11) Make sure the barn is well ventilated, as breathing ammonia and dust in a poorly ventilated barn all winter can cause damage to the respiratory system.

12) Provide outdoor shelter-Check your run-in sheds for leaky roofs or protruding nails.

13) And what about your muck boots? Are they free of cracks and holes and up to the task?

Other sources:

Dr. Gregory A. Beroza posted a very imformative article on “Winterizing Your Horse” at his Horse Doc blog:

Dr. Martin Adams, Equine Nutritionist for Southern States feeds, informs on how to “Winterize Your Horse’s Feeding Program” at:

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