Winter is coming, and we equestrians know exactly what Ned Stark meant by saying this. The slippery snow is quite dangerous for our horses, the water supply is tricky, and you constantly have to get rid of all the snow in the yard. Well, the outlook isn’t great, that’s true, but we’ve prepared some useful tips to help you get through the upcoming winter.
If your horse requires shoes, you should be aware that it is important to consult your farrier about the difference between summer- and winter shoeing. The summer shoeing is more likely to be slippery in winter, and the snow sticks to it more quickly.
A good winter horseshoe has a better grip. You could ask your farrier for ice nails or use screw-in studs. You could also add pads to make sure the snow doesn’t stick to the hoof. There are many options, but you should always ask an expert before you decide.
If there is permafrost, it can be particularly dangerous for horses as the paddock can become extremely slippery. If it is so bad that the horses cannot walk at all, it is best to move them to another paddock. Of course, not every barn has the facilities to move an entire herd just like that. If this is not possible, the paddock can be covered with extra sand or straw. This way, the horses will not slip that much.
For horses in open stabling, you might want to set up a lying area with straw in the shelter so that the horses don’t have to lie on the cold and frozen ground.
And then there’s the water problem. It is frozen in an instant, and the horses can’t drink from the trough or the automatic waterer. Modern barns switched to heated water pipes so that the auto waterers don’t freeze. We’ve probably all carried a dozen water buckets in our life, and, seriously, no one wants to do that multiple times a day for ten or more horses.
However, if you have unheated water pipes you must be aware of the fact that they burst very quickly after a freeze. That means, you have to cut the water supply as soon as temperatures are getting frosty.
The most important feed for horses is hay. Especially in the winter months, hay should be available at any time. Long breaks in feeding are generally harmful to the intestines. Additionally, the energy requirements of horses are higher in winter, as the energy they get from their feed converts into body heat. So, the colder the temperatures, the higher the energy requirement.
Check out our article “15 reasons why riders have more fun in winter”, too!