Winter horse care advice

Don't let the winter weather get you down - take note of these quick tips and make caring for your horse in winter a breeze!

horse behind a frosty hedge.jpg
  1. Use field shelters. Research has shown that 62% of horses use shelters in windy and wet weather and that 20% of body heat is lost if they don’t have access to one.
  2. Research suggests that rugs are needed if it’s wet, the temperature is below 5 degrees, the horse is clipped, is very young or very old, has recently relocated from a hotter climate or has poor body condition.
  3. If your horse’s thick coat becomes matted it will stop him being able to ‘fluff it up’ to fend off the cold. So regular grooming is essential.
  4. Clipped horses need feeding differently to those with a thick coat to ensure they’re warm enough and combat weight loss. Consult a feed company or nutritionist for advice.
  5. The amount of fibre fed should be increased in the winter months to provide the energy your horse needs to survive the cold.
  6. Install hot water showers and heat lamps.
  7. To ensure all regular exercise consider buildingan all-weather turnout area.
  8. Invest in a horse walker (we know 7 and 8 are a bit pie in the sky but we can dream!)
  9. Use sand on the walkways to prevent your horse (and you) slipping in icy weather.
  10. Hardcore in the paddock gateways will prevent poaching and give your horse somewhere dry to stand.
  11. Access to a microwave at the yard offers something warm to eat on very cold days.
  12. Plastic sledges are great for moving things around when there’s snow or ice.
  13. Put thin rugs over thick rugs rather than the other way round. They are easier to dry and clean.
  14. Cover your padlocks with plastic bags to stop them from freezing.
  15. If the forecast is frosty, leave shaving and other debris on the yard for grip.

moving a horse to a colder climate

Did you know that a horse moving to a colder area will need to put on some weight beforehand and get used to being colder than he usually is – so leave off the summer sheets on the cooler nights and let him get hairy as he heads into Autumn (if the timing’s right). Horses are adaptable but it’s the lack of their own preparation that causes the problem. Horses in colder climates lay down fat reserves and grow thick coats. A horse being plunged into this sort of weather won’t have done that. So you have to try and make that happen for him. He needs to be fit before the move so regular exercise is important and make sure you have all the necessary rugs and shelter arrangements in place before you move.  It only takes around 21 days for a horse to feel physically comfortable in his new home. If you're preparing your horse to move to a different climate, work with your vet.