Winter management of your horse

Many people think horses get quite cold in winter being outside but a horse that is unclipped, has shelter from the elements and with adequate nutrition will be able to handle the winter months much easier than us.

Most horses must use body fat reserves to maintain their core body temperature during the cooler winter months. To prevent weight loss, ensure you provide your horse with a little extra feed.  Fibre, in the form of grass or hay, is the cheapest and easiest way to keep your horse's condition, others may require topping up with hard feed.

Oil is a great source of energy for your horse and gives them a shiny coat; up to a cup can be given daily, introduced slowly over one to two weeks. Making sure your horse isn't overdue for their dental exam (most require yearly checkups) will ensure teeth aren't painful and food won't drop while being eaten.

Horses tend to pick up more worms on the pasture during winter due to its higher moisture content. Monitoring your horse's faecal egg count is a great way to determine when your horse may require worming. The type of wormer can also be tailored to each individual horse depending on the type of worm eggs found in the faeces.

Rainscald and mud fever are often seen during winter and can be challenging to treat. Rainscald is often seen after heavy rain where thick coats trap water along the back. This allows the organism dermatophilosis congolensis to overgrow forming scabs and sores. The best way to prevent this is to keep your horse rugged and consider clipping your horse to allow them to dry quickly. Sweat can exacerbate rainscald so change rugs according to the weather and ensure horses are completely dry before being put back in the paddock.

Mud fever is formed in a similar way. Moisture is trapped by mud on the legs allowing the skin's natural defenses to be weakened. White-haired areas are the most noticeably affected. Having mud free areas will give horse's legs a chance to dry out fully and for those in muddy paddocks washing and drying legs daily may be required to prevent this condition.

Keeping your horse healthy and happy with good nutrition, warmth and adequate selenium levels (which helps with skin defenses) will ensure your horse can maintain healthy skin, fight off infections and should prevent excessive weight loss.

If you have any problems with your horse during the winter months call us and have a chat to one of the vets.