Winter Horse Health Care

Tips to ensure that your horses stay healthy in colder weather.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Depending on where you live, your horses may have harsh winter conditions heading their way. Whether your horse is kept at an indoor facility or pastured, take some simple steps to maintain a healthy horse during winter.

Before winter hits, work with a veterinarian to create a wellness program that incorporates parasite control, vaccinations, routine veterinary care, dental exams, nutritional guidance and barn hygiene. Based on your geographic location and level of activity and travel, your veterinarian can recommend any additional vaccines you might need before winter.

An AQHA membership is the Christmas present that keeps on giving all year long. Join now or purchase for the horse-lover in your family to receive savings on your favorite brands and products, a subscription to America's Horse magazine, and access to all of AQHA's resources and rewards programs. Join now!

Also, don’t forget to protect your equine medications and other veterinary supplies from freezing. Extreme cold can trigger the breakdown of liquid injectables and supplement products, rendering them ineffective, if not harmful.1 Instead, keep medications in a climate-controlled area. If something accidently freezes, the manufacturer can help determine whether it’s still safe to use or advise you on how to properly dispose of the damaged medication or product.

Preventive care and basic hygiene can help protect your horses’ health when traveling to winter venues where your horses are exposed to other horses and can be exposed to potential diseases. Unfortunately, this can be the time of year when upper respiratory disease, such as equine influenza, can become a problem in facilities. The FLUVAC INNOVATOR® line of vaccines can help provide protection against equine influenza virus. These vaccines not only help deliver this protection against equine influenza due to type A2 viruses but also aid in the prevention of equine rhinopneumonitis due to equine herpesvirus (EHV) Types 1 and 4; equine encephalomyelitis due to eastern, western and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis viruses; and tetanus.

Additionally, you will need to ensure that your horses maintain their current body condition during the winter months. To accomplish this, make sure they have enough clean water. Horses will consume more water if it is kept around 45 degrees F. If this is not feasible in your barn, make sure that any ice formed is removed at least twice daily. Horses will no longer have the nutrients in lush grass to supplement their diets, so ensuring that they have adequate, good-quality hay can help them maintain optimum body condition. You might need to add or adjust the amount of grain they are given if they are not able to maintain an adequate body condition on a hay-only diet. Be sure to make these changes gradually; sudden changes to diet can increase the risk of colic.

Finally, it is essential to good winter health to keep horses comfortable and their body temperatures regulated. If your horses have been body clipped or exposed to freezing rain or sleet, consider putting dry blankets on them to help them stay dry and warm. Also, make certain your horses have been properly cooled and are dry after rigorous exercise.

In addition to being a part of the largest horse breed association in the world, AQHA members also enjoy great rewards for their membership. Access pedigree records, earn points at AQHA shows, receive a subscription to America's Horse magazine and claim hundreds of dollars in savings on the best brands and services.

Most horses, no matter what age, who enter winter in good condition will be just fine with the same daily care and a few minor adjustments. As basic as some of these preventive measures might seem, they are critical to helping protect the overall wellness of each horse and providing horses with the best opportunity to achieve optimal health — even in the coldest temperatures.

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 EQUUS. Safeguard Your Veterinary Supplies During Cold Spells. 2012. Available at: Accessed October 21, 2013.

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