"Winter is coming..." - Jon Snow (Game of Thrones)
Keep The Weight Up
It's easier to keep weight on a horse in the winter than to have him gain it once he's gotten skinny. An extra layer of fat before the cold months arrive will make it easier for horses to keep weight on in the cold. If your horse has a full winter coat, you can't monitor his weight purely by eye; be sure to use your hands to regularly feel along his ribs, which you should be able to feel only faintly.
It's All In The Hay
The digestion of fiber (hay) in your horse's digestive tract creates heat that will help keep him warm. Feed high quality free-choice forage. Most horses will eat 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in hay per day. Average daily free-choice intakes of hay by a 600 kg (1320 lb) horse is 12 – 15 kg (26 – 33 lbs)/day or about a half of a 65-lb square bale per horse per day.
Feeds Can Help
A high fat feed is ideal during the pre-winter and winter months. Use the best quality feeds you can afford and if using a sweetfeed look for one that contains either extruded or micronized grains as these are more digestible for horses.
Supplements Help Too
Supplemental vitamins A, D and E may be needed. Appropriate mineral-vitamin mixes should be chosen.
Round Bales Offer Value
For horses that live outdoors, provide a large round bale (in a rack feeder to prevent wastage) for them to "graze" on and stay busy. You can find dry rounds at Milner Feeds for $59.99.
Make Sure They Have Enough
If you are limit-feeding horses outdoors, adult horses being fed at maintenance will need an additional 2% more feed per degree below the lower critical temperature (-15°C). At –40°C, the horse will need 4.5 – 5 kg (10 - 12 lbs) more than it ate at temperatures above –15°C.
Temperature Is Very Important
Fresh, clean water is important all year long. We carry bucket and tank heaters, just make sure you check them daily to make sure the water remains unfrozen. Horses prefer drinking water that is 2 to 10 degrees Celsius. A horse that doesn't drink enough in the winter is at risk of impaction colic.
As well, a rain sheet or blanket are of utmost importance in maintaining temperature. Higher fat horses should have a rain sheet to repel water (as the can't do it alone) and skinnier horses should have a good thick blanket to keep them warm in the cooler temperatures.
Mix And Mash
Making a mash by mixing two gallons of hot water into your horse's pelleted or concentrate feed and allowing it to expand for 15 minutes before feeding will help provide extra hydration.
Ensure They're Dewormed
Make sure your horse is dewormed per the schedule recommended by your veterinarian before winter arrives to kill any parasites that might prevent optimum digestion.
Soak It Up
If your horse is older and has poor teeth that can't process hay, you can feed soaked alfalfa cubes or hay pellets in large servings several times a day to help keep him in good weight. That being said, any horse can benefit from soaking cubes or pellets as it aids in the reduction of sugars and fructans contained within.
Bedding Bedding Bedding!
If available, a well-bedded, south or east-facing shed is useful for young and old horses. Alternatively, provide protection from the wind by providing bedding areas behind snow fences, in coulees or bluffs, or among trees. Horses that can lie down will conserve body heat.
Don't Forget The Salt!
Free access to a trace mineral or other variety of salt block is required to meet your horse's requirements for sodium and other minerals, especially for horses eating hay but not grain. If you're feeding grain, it's advised to add loose salt to the feed to increase their consumption. You can find a wide selection of salt blocks and loose salts inside our store.
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