How to Keep your Horse Warm in Winter
Winter months can be a challenge for horses and owners alike, especially in unpredictable British weather. A variety of measures can be taken to keep your horse warm and happy during the winter. These include stabling them, blanketing or rugging them, increasing feed, and ensuring that their water does not freeze over.
Should I stable my horse during the winter?
Choosing to stable your horse during winter can ensure that no matter the weather, they remain warm and dry. A stable offers protection from chilling wind, rain and snow, along with straw bedding, feed, and fresh water – all of which can help keep your horse warm and healthy during winter. To maintain a healthy environment a stable should be properly ventilated and as clean and dust free as possible. The ideal temperature for a stable during winter is similar to that outside.
Whilst stabling your horse can help to stay ahead of unexpected weather, healthy horses can also do well outside during winter as long as they have a well-developed winter coat or suitable rugs, and access to required calories along with natural shelter or a field shelter. Read more on our previous post Do Horses Need A Stable?
Should I put a rug on my horse?
Most horses do not need rugs until the temperature falls below 10°C. Whether you should rug your horse or not depends greatly on the horse itself. If your horse if particularly young or old, thin, or is clipped then you might consider rugging them sooner. You can find a helpful table on when to consider rugging your horse and what sort of rug is the best option in our post 5 Horse Care Tips & Tricks for Winter. If a horse is stabled then you should consider that they cannot generate body heat by moving about when choosing a rug.
If you use a rug for your horse then it is necessary to ensure that it does not rub and cause sores. To avoid rubbing you should make sure that a rug fits a horse as well as it can. Any rug must be kept clean, making sure there is no build up of hair and skin in the lining of the rug. Inner liners or blankets with a no rub lining can help to prevent rubbing, although you should still regularly check your horse for rub marks.
What should I feed my horse during winter?
As digestion produces heat, a constant supply of forage can create body heat and keep your horse warm. Most heat is produced when bacteria in the horse’s gut digest long stemmed forage like hay or straw and break down the complex carbohydrates they contain. A frequent supply of forage will also mean your horse is less likely to develop stomach ulcers or colic. Forage can also keep them occupied if they are stabled, leaving less room for boredom!
How can I prevent my horses’ water from freezing?
During winter you want to ensure that your horses’ water does not freeze over. You can prevent this by using an automatic waterer with a heating element, or an immersed heater. In addition to ensuring water does not freeze, the slightly warm water may be more appealing to your horse. If you do not have these, adding warm water to your horses’ water can help, as can floating a tennis ball in it to help break up any ice that forms.
Horses drink an average of 30 litres a day and require more during winter as they are eating more dry forage. It is essential to ensure they have a steady supply of water at all times, especially throughout the colder months.
What can I do to help my horse stay warm after exercise in winter?
After exercise you should be sure that your horse is dry and no longer sweaty before putting their rugs back on as you do not want to trap any moisture under them. You want to be sure that your horse does not get cold when cooling down after exercise as the sweat can cause your horse to feel cold.
You might consider looking for access to a solarium for your horse. During cold weather it takes longer for chilled muscles to warm up during exercise and a solarium helps with this. A solarium can also provide a relaxing heat in which your horse will dry off faster after exercise or training. Drying faster reduces the chances of them falling ill. For more information on the benefits of a horse solarium, you can read Everything Horse’s article about them.