Brrr. It’s cold outside! Winter is upon us. About this time of year I always start to get questions from horse owners about how best to prepare their barn and horses for the cold weather. It’s not just the temperatures though; changes in exercise routine, footing, and stabling procedures all come into play.
This year, nearly all of the country is being hit with some sort of snowfall. Riding in the snow is one of winter’s joys and is a nice change for your horse. There are sports like skijoring that let you combine riding with skiing. However, there are several things to consider before riding off into the snow.
Early locomotives were called “the iron horse”. The analogy of steam engines was used to describe the horse’s respiratory (and circulatory) system is pretty apt. Think of the horse’s food (hay and grain) as the fuel that propels the horse’s “engine”. Like the steam engine, the fuel is converted into nutritional energy (like the locomotive’s steam) that powers the horse’s muscles.
Photo Credit: Equestrian Professional
The #1 question potential horse owners ask is, “how much does it cost to keep a horse?” The answer is, of course, it depends. But the most common follow-up question is, “But won’t it cost way less because I’ll be keeping him at home in my backyard?”
We’ve discussed in previous blogs the importance of ventilation – or more importantly cross-ventilation – and light in your barn. Adequate ventilation can help remove summer heat, moisture, dust and toxic gases. If these are allowed to build up, mold, dampness and disease can result. Plenty of fresh air will provide ventilation and help eliminate respiratory problems with your horse. Openings can add light and keep your horse from being apprehensive when entering a dark barn from bright sunshine.
Your horse is one of your most prized possessions, with your tack and equipment a close second. One of the easiest ways to make sure your barn is free of areas or items that could cause harm or injury to a horse or owner is to have a good safety plan in effect. Routinely check your barn with a critical eye to make sure you are following your plan.
Adding additional lighting to your barn can chase away winter gloom for both you and your horse. Horse's eyes are sensitive to weak light, so they can see fairly well at dusk, but they don't have the ability t o adjust their eyes to darkness quickly, which is why they will often refuse to enter a dark building from bright sunshine. In addition, shadows and poorly lit areas make stall cleaning cumbersome and inhibit observation and care.
Should you clip your horse for the winter? Well, it depends. Clipping will allow your horse to dry more quickly after exercise and allow a much easier grooming process. You will also find that your horse maintains a better and healthier looking coat. If you need your horse to cool off quickly after work AND if your horse will have appropriate blanketing and adequate shelter, then the answer is yes.
While everyone else is oohing and aahing over cold, starry nights and snowy days, if you own a horse you know that winter can be a challenging time of year. Your horse gets cold, things get wet and there’s the inevitable mud. To help you this winter, we’ve put together a list of six items (think of it as a Christmas gift list for your barn!) that can help make this winter a little less troublesome.
Photo Credit: Southern Comfort Barn and Fence- Emge Equine