4 Body Condition A furry winter coat can hide a gaunt frame.
Run your fingers across your horse’s
ribcage periodically to check for fat coverage. Ideally, you can just feel the last
two ribs with a light run of your hand.
Provide good-quality grass hay free-choice to help your horse generate heat
from within. Fiber fermentation in the
large intestine works like a wood stove
inside your horse. During cold, wet
spells, feed more hay to help your horse
stay warm rather than loading him up
with more grain.
Over time, grain will help put
weight on a thin horse’s frame, but it
does very little during an immediate
need for warmth. If greater caloric intake is needed to maintain or increase
body condition, supplement with a
small amount of alfalfa hay and/or
Fat supplements such as vegetable
oil or stabilized rice bran provide an
excellent and safe means of feeding
more calories without the risk of
carbohydrate overload of grain.
Vitamin and mineral supplements
may be necessary to balance rations,
particularly in young, growing, pregnant or senior horses. Provide a salt
block at all times.
5 Hoof Care While you may not be riding as much during
the winter as in warmer weather, your
horse’s feet still need attention. Plan
on scheduling your farrier every six to
eight weeks to maintain hoof health
with a good trim.
It’s often a good idea to have your
farrier pull your horse’s shoes for
the winter. This allows the hooves to
achieve a more natural, expansible
state. Barefoot hooves easily shed
ice and snow balls that collect in the
feet. Some horses can’t tolerate being
barefoot, however, so you’ll need to
consider your horse’s unique needs.
If your horse can’t go barefoot and
you plan to trail ride or turn him out
3 Respiratory Health In addition to keeping your horse current on respiratory vaccines, his living conditions also
affect his respiratory health. Closed, stuffy barns with still air
are a major winter health hazard.
Ammonia from urine collects in stalls and irritates the airways,
leading to coughs and potential respiratory infection. Keep barn
doors and windows open as much as possible to increase ventilation if your horse is
To further safeguard respiratory health, protect the haystack and feed storage
areas from excess moisture; this minimizes the risk of mold contamination that
can cause allergic respiratory problems in horses.
Barns should be
well ventilated to
keep your horse’s
air ways healthy.