Excerpts from the Editors of EQUUS magazine
There’s no reason to limit your horse’s turnout when the temperature drops—he’s well equipped to handle cold weather. People find temperatures from about 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit most pleasant, but horses can be perfectly comfortable in 15 degree weather. In fact, with shelter and sustenance, they can even thrive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero.
What’s more, keeping horses indoors can actually precipitate health problems. For example, inadequate ventilation in stalls can lead to respiratory problems such as heaves. And the inactivity of confinement may slow intestinal function, which increases the risk of colic. Arthritis and other orthopedic conditions may also worsen when a horse receives little or no exercise. In short, your horse is better off outdoors during winter for as many hours a day as you can manage.
But that doesn’t mean that you can just toss him into a paddock and head back into the house. To maximize the benefits of winter turnout and keep your horse safe and healthy, you will need to provide a few more resources than you would the rest of the year and be vigilant in protecting against seasonal hazards. Those efforts, however, will be rewarded by your horse’s good health and contentment this winter.
Blanket wisely. Equine outerwear can serve an important role in keeping horses warm and dry while turned out. Look for a waterproof turnout blanket that protects your horse against average winter temperatures, without causing him to become overheated. A horse sweating under a blanket in winter can catch a dangerous chill. With the enormous variety in blanket materials and styles available, it shouldn’t be hard to find the perfect match for each particular horse and environment.
Turnout blankets do, however, require extra vigilance on your part. You’ll need to check your horses daily to ensure their blankets are in good repair; a dangling strap or gaping hole can catch a leg and cause injury. You’ll also need to look under the blankets—if not every day then every third day at least—for signs of trouble. Conditions such as rainrot and lice can flourish unseen under the cover of blankets, while rubs and pressure sores on a horse’s shoulders and withers can make movement painful.
Also encourage your horses to drink. Studies show that equine water intake drops in colder weather and when the water itself is extremely cold. Monitor the water level in your trough to see whether your horses are drinking. Automatic waterers don’t allow that, but some have a meter that enables you to check consumption. In addition, you can check your horses for dehydration with a skin-pinch or capillary refill test.
If you think your horse isn’t drinking enough, you might trigger his thirst by adding electrolytes to his feed. Another way of increasing a horse’s fluid intake is feeding warm, wet mashes of beet pulp, oatmeal and bran.
Protect their eyes. Although insects are long gone, your horse’s fly mask can still be useful this winter. Gusting winds can pick up fine dirt and debris and carry it directly into your horse’s eyes. Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the sensitive membranes around the eyes, is common where conditions are very dry and windy.
Equip any turned-out horse with a history of eye irritation with a fly mask if windy weather is predicted. In addition, masks will benefit horses with uveitis or cataracts who may find the “snow glare” from sunlight bouncing off a white ground annoying or painful. In these cases, a dark fly mask or one with very fine mesh can serve the same purpose that sunglasses do for skiers.
Now that you’re cozy and warm in the house, the last thing you might want to do is pull your boots back on and head down to the pasture to make sure all is well – no frozen buckets, blankets are all buckled and straight – and no one will fault you for grumbling as you brace against the wind on your way out the door. But your efforts to preserve your horse’s turnout time this winter can be repaid when you’re able to look out the window to see happy, healthy horses frolicking in fresh snow—and knowing that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Read the full article at http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/make-the-most-of-winter-turnout-for-your-horse/
And remember, we have plenty of winter horse clothing, fly masks, grooming supplies, skin treatments, and electrolytes in stock, along with all of your horse care needs.