Horses are animals that are well-adapted to cold Alberta temperatures; however they do need special attention to ensure we are meeting their food, water and shelter needs. With some simple management practices your horses can be safe, healthy and comfortable during the cold winter months.
Horses may require up to 45 litres (10 gal) of water per day. Eating snow is not a sufficient water source in the winter as achieving water goals may be difficult with snow alone. Horses are less inclined to consume water in frigid temperatures so it is important to ensure the horses continue to drink as much water as possible during the winter months.
Horses should be provided with clean potable water. To prevent water from freezing, a heated water dispenser can be used. These devices must be checked daily to ensure they are working properly.
Feed your horse based on its overall body condition. A horse needs to maintain an overall body condition of 4-5 on the 9 point scale. A thick winter coat may conceal a horse’s true body condition, so it is helpful to use your hands along with your eyes to assess body condition.
Shelters must offer protection from adverse weather conditions including snow and rain. All pastures, paddocks and feedlots used in the winter must have adequate windbreaks to reduce the effects of wind chill. If horses are kept in a stable they should be provided with a clean, dry area for lying down comfortably.
Hoof care management practices must still be administered although hoof growth may slightly decrease over the winter months. Horses travelling on uneven frozen ground can crack and break hooves so it important to maintain hoof care.
Blankets are required for stabled horses that are turned out during the day. However, for an outdoor horse, a blanket is not necessary as its own winter coat is sufficiently warm. If you do blanket your horse, you need to remove the blanket and brush your horse frequently. This will allow air in between the hairs of the horse which acts as insulation.
For more information on horse nutrition and health please visit the following links:
- How to assess the body condition of your horse
- Horse nutrition and feeding management
- Cold weather feeding advice
Source Alberta SPCA