With just a little help from us, our horses do fine in winter weather.
By Holly Clanahan | December 18, 2008
As was mentioned previously, I'm not a big fan of cold weather. And sorry, fair warning ... it'll probably be mentioned again. Really not a fan. But my horses, however, don't seem to mind the chill.
I was talking recently to a friend in Wyoming, where she said the temperature was -8. It made me cold just hearing it - and it made our weather, in the teens and 20s, sound perfectly balmy. But her horses are getting along fine, too.
A few years ago, I did a story in America's Horse magazine on winter horse care. Cherry Hill, a horsewoman and author in Colorado, offered some great tips - many of which I have put to use with my own horses. Here are a few:
- To help horses maintain body heat, feed more hay, not grain. The digestion of hay is what warms them.
- Older horses may need more help. I have a 30-something mare who is hard to keep weight on, and she got a fabulous new pink blanket this year. It's cute, and, more importantly, it keeps her from having to expend precious calories staying warm.
- Water is of critical importance. Not everyone has heated automatic waterers (oh, I wish!), but Cherry had a great idea: Simply draw fresh water for the horses daily. They'll drink more if it's freshly drawn, rather than if they have to drink from an icy tank.
- Know your horses' normal routine. If they typically drink after they're done with their hay, draw the water then. That way, you know it won't freeze before they're ready for it.
- And finally, some tips I've learned from a friend in Minnesota on dressing for the subfreezing weather: Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep your fingers together. They're fine for feeding, where you don't necessarily need fine motor skills. You can also wear a pair of thin gloves underneath, so if you do have to remove the mittens to unlatch a gate, for instance, you'll still have some protection.
- Don't forget the head protection. Most of your body heat escapes from your head, so forget about hat hair (you can always stick a ball cap on later), and just wear that stocking cap while you feed.
Happy riding, and stay warm!
Editor, America's Horse magazine
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