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Cold Weather Care and Feeding of Horses

Follow these tips on feeding and caring for your horses in cold weather.

With the help of Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet, you can learn some of the basics of cold weather care for your horses. Cold weather, especially below-freezing temperatures and cold rain, requires owners to pay careful attention to their horses, and make certain they maintain their weight throughout the cold winter months.

Cold Weather Care and Feeding of Horses
With the help of Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet, you can give your horse the best care when the weather gets cold.

Monitor Body Condition Score

Be sure your horse is at a body condition score of five or six, meaning that they’re carrying some fat over their ribs. Monitor body condition with a monthly physical exam because long hair can hide a horse’s weight loss. It’s especially important for older horses. Your horse also needs to be kept up to date with dental care and overall health care, including deworming when appropriate. It’s also a good idea to keep horseshoes off of your horses during the cold winter, as long as you provide proper hoof care.

Provide Adequate Water

Water that’s above 40°F should be available at all times. If your horse’s water freezes over, the ice should be broken at least twice per day. You can also remedy frozen water with a heated waterer or de-icer. Do not rely on snow as water supply for your horses. A 1,200-pound horse needs 12-15 gallons of water every day during the winter. Inadequate water, or water that’s too cold, can contribute to impaction colic. It can also lead to decreased feed intake, which leads to loss of body condition. Loose salt should also be available, as opposed to a cold salt block, which a horse might not lick because of the temperature.

Provide Shelter

Keep your horse out of the cold rain and wind. Horses can keep comfortable in cold weather if given shelter from the wind, and if they stay dry. Cold rain mats down their coat and hair, which means they lose insulation, decreasing their body heat.

Increase Feed

Finally, you need to feed more to your horses. A horse’s digestible energy requirement increases for each degree below the thermal neutral zone. Wind chill can also increase the amount of energy your horse will need to digest. Quality roughage, such as hay or high fiber products, produce more heat during digestion. A 1,200-pound horse at maintenance needs about 17,700 calories of digestible energy at maintenance. Each drop in degree requires an increase of 1.375%. So if the temp drops from 10°F to 0°F, the digestible energy requirement would increase to 20,130 calories. Without an increase in feed, a horse can lose a little over 1/4 of a pound per day.

Keeping proper care of your horses in the winter helps them get ready for spring. At Blain’s Farm & Fleet, you can trust your animal experts to have all the horse care supplies you need. From horse tack to hoof care, your horses are covered. For more tips on caring for horses and other farm animals, visit our Hobby Farming blog.

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