Winter Health Care

Help your horse stay healthy in colder temperatures.

Help your horse stay healthy in colder temperatures.

Horse owners and managers need to pay close attention to their horses’ body condition, particularly as temperatures drop. Journal photo.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Pfizer

Maintaining a healthy horse through rigorous show schedules and mosquito season can be difficult.

However, adding in winter elements such as cooler temperatures, snow and ice can present a whole new set of challenges.

Whether your American Quarter Horse is at a breeding facility, a show barn or pastured, there are steps horse owners and managers can take to manage their horses for optimal health this winter.

Wind and cooler temperatures often mean closed-up facilities. Making sure horses have enough ventilation is important to helping prevent disease. Practicing good barn hygiene, both at home and on the road, can also help protect horses. Whenever possible, avoid sharing water buckets, lip chains, halters or other items that might touch the horse’s mouth, nose and ears. If items have to be shared, be sure to follow proper sanitation and disinfection techniques first. There are a number of commercially available disinfectants, such as ROCCAL® D PLUS and NOLVASAN® SOLUTION that are effective for killing bacteria. Veterinarians also recommend that every barn offer a shallow basin full of properly prepared disinfectant for people to wash their boots before entering or leaving a facility.

Ensuring that a horse has enough water is also important. Horses sometimes tend to drink less when the weather is colder. If a water bucket or trough is frozen, be sure to break and dump out the ice. Keeping the water temperature above 45 degrees F will encourage horses to drink during cold weather.

AQHA’s FREE HYPP Survival Guide will teach you how to be prepared for and deal with a horse affected by HYPP.

Horse owners and managers need to pay close attention to their horses’ body condition all year, but particularly as temperatures drop. In the winter months, horses no longer have the nutrients in lush grass to supplement their diet. Therefore, making sure they have adequate, good-quality hay can help maintain an optimum body score. Depending on the horses’ work schedule, their grain intake may need to be gradually increased or decreased. Any changes in diet should be done gradually and in consultation with a veterinarian first, as sudden changes in diet may increase the risk of colic.

Keeping horses comfortable and body temperature regulated is critical in winter health care management. If a horse gets cold and/or wet, he may have to exert excess digestive energy to keep warm. Blanketing may offer a solution but may not be necessary in some circumstances. If the horse has established a natural winter coat, it acts as its own insulation. However, if it is a show horse who has been clipped or the hair kept shorter to reduce sweating, then blanketing is probably necessary. If a horse is outside and gets wet from snow or rain, it is imperative to put on a dry blanket and to make sure his coat is dry before putting on the blanket. Also, be sure the horse has been properly cooled and his coat is dry after a rigorous workout.

Learn all about this dominant genetic disease in AQHA’s FREE HYPP Survival Guide report.

Having every horse on a routine schedule makes it easier to maintain all year. Barn managers and owners should also work with their veterinarian to implement a strategic deworming program and make sure their horses are current on vaccinations.

Unfortunately, this can be the time of year when upper respiratory disease such as equine influenza virus can become a problem in facilities. The best method for helping protect horses against equine influenza is to have them vaccinated by a veterinarian. Pfizer Animal Health’s FLUVAC INNOVATOR® helps provide protection against equine influenza virus. In addition, FLUVAC INNOVATOR vaccines also contain equine herpesvirus, types 1 and 4, to help protect against rhinopneumonitis.

Maintaining healthy horses in the winter months can present challenges for equine caregivers. As basic as most precautionary measures may seem, they are critical to protecting the overall wellness of each horse and the barn as a whole. Preventative care and basic hygiene also protect a horse’s health when traveling to winter venues where he is exposed to other horses and potential disease. By working with a veterinarian to create a wellness program that incorporates parasite control, vaccinations, routine veterinary care, dental exams, nutritional counseling and barn hygiene, equine caregivers can provide their horses with the best opportunity to achieve optimal health even in the coldest temperatures.

All brands are the property of their respective owners. ©2011 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved

7 thoughts on “Winter Health Care”

  1. I have a 32 year old that I’m worried about. She did not come through summer fat & sassy like usual. She is on pasture and comes in and out of the barn as she pleases. Last winter she did not do well in the cold and stopped eating. I blanketed her for the rest of the winter and she did OK. I hate to blanket her to soon because I want her haircoat to grow first. Her joints get so stiff that she creaks! What would you recommend to make her life easier in the cold?

  2. @Lori- I’d look at her feed first- make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs as an older horse- you may have to increase her grain. I know for our older horse actually to maintain all of ours we grain twice a day, hay in the evening but they’re turned out on winter wheat right now. But I don’t feed everyone the same- the old man in the barn gets about 5-6lbs a day and he is getting good fat back on his ribs as well as his topline has come back up where it needs to be, another one that is 7 gets only 3lbs a day. So definately look at her feed, blanket of course but also take into consideration- she is 32- as far as the creaking, I used to give just a tad bit of bute to ease the ouchy- and again you really have to take her age into consideration…I hate to be the one to say this but look in her eyes- she will tell you when it’s time- you’ll just have to be strong enough to make the decision for her to help her. Again I’ve been there too- it’s never easy, but, when it comes to their health over our heart breaking over their loss, well I’ll deal with a broken heart. Unfortunately I may have to make that same decision with one that isn’t even close to that age…time will tell.
    Good luck and God Bless

  3. 1) I would suggest a couple tablespoons of corn oil over hay or in grain. It adds 100 calories a tablespoon and will add fat over the bones in time. It also gives a slick shiney coat in summer. 2) Beet Pulp is a good additive to a diet to give extra roughage to help keep them warm. You can add warm water to it for the older horse who has a hard time chewing.
    3) Please remember to float and/or have your horses teeth checked yearly as they get older. One year off from dental work can leave an exposed in-the-mouth abcess that no one can detect but your horse.

  4. I have two senior citizens and one of them needs more care than the other. I went to Nutrena pellets called Complete for supplement to hay. My seniors like pellets better and I also feed Purina Senior feed and add a scoop of Omolene 200 to the twice daily bucket. My seniors get that plus 5 flakes of good grass hay. One of the Seniors gets a whole ice cream bucket twice a day of this mix and then there is the hay flakes. The other one gets less than half of this and does very well. Both horses have had dental exams every year and if I heard creaking I might add MSM to his diet.

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