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Photo courtesy of Valley Vet
Photo courtesy of Valley Vet

Horse owners, are you geared up to keep horses in winter time safe, sound and healthy? There is much to think of, and plan ahead for, as it relates to winter horse care -- especially if you are caring for an older horse.

Our friends at Absorbine said, “Winter can be particularly tough on our beloved senior horses. Cold temperatures can mean stiff, sore joints, snow and ice can be a challenge to navigate, and brisk Northern winds can deliver a deeper chill to old bones.”

How can you take extra precautions to keep an older horse comfortable this winter? Read up on these tips from Absorbine.

  1. Keep older horses snug in a rug.

    Although horses in good health with full coats do just fine in the winter elements without a horse blanket, senior horses in winter often need a little extra warmth. If you have a senior horse that has trouble keeping weight, has particular health issues, or doesn’t grow as thick a coat as he once did, it’s a good idea to provide them with a blanket.

    Waterproof and windproof is best, protecting them from icy gales and wintery mix precipitation that can permeate the coat and chill him to the bone. Make sure the blanket fits well, doesn’t cause rubs, and straps are secure and properly adjusted. It’s also important to remove the blanket regularly to groom and check their weight. Last, outdoor horses of all ages need a wind shelter in cold temperatures. A basic lean-to with a roof for them to stand under is all you need to keep the worst of the rain, snow and wind off your horse. They’ll be warm, cozy and stylish all winter long.

  2. Pack on the calories.

    Winter is of course the time for horses to bulk up, as they use the calories they intake to feed their inner furnace and keep them warm from the inside. Older horses often aren’t able to utilize their calories as well as they did as youngsters, and are typically on the leaner side anyhow.

    Sometimes, our old friends need a little extra help staying plump when it’s cold. Hay is the key here, and more of it. Increasing your senior horse’s helping of quality hay in the winter will help add calories and keep his body warm. As a horse’s back teeth wear down with age, older horses may have trouble chewing their food, so be sensitive to that. And if this is the case, look to alternatives like hay cubes that can be soaked until soft for easy chowing.

  3. Ensure horses are hydrated.

    Proper hydration is critical for all horses but especially senior horses in winter. They are prime candidates for impaction colic, and lots of water will help reduce that risk and keep everything moving smoothly through the system. Be sure to supply your horse with plenty of clean water that is a comfortable temperature to drink all day, every day. Be sure to keep it from freezing by keeping it protected or using insulated and heated buckets. If your older horse is reluctant to drink, try warmer water, or add a little apple juice for a tasty treat. Keeping a salt lick accessible will also help him work up a thirst.

  4. Keep paddocks safe.

    You definitely don’t want your senior slipping and falling out in the winter elements, so inspect paddocks and pastures regularly to make sure they are accessible and safe for the old folks. Keep icy spots in check by sanding regularly, and clear paths if the snow is very deep. Access to shelter is a great source of comfort for senior horses in winter; a simple lean-to shed can be enough to offer relief from snow, wind, ice and rain.

  5. Ensure horses are comfortable.

    ButeLess, a favorite Devil’s Claw supplement for horses, is known for bringing relief from the aches and discomfort that may be exacerbated in cold winter months. To help ease the aches and pains that bitter cold winters accentuate, include a scoop in your senior horse’s daily feed. The Devil’s Claw, Vitamin B-12, and Yucca will provide long-term relief the natural way.

    These ingredients are gentle on the stomach, so you can deliver the relief your senior needs without worrying about upsetting his tummy. Stiff, creaky joints are common in the winter, but with a little ButeLess, he’ll be bounding happily through snowdrifts until spring.

  6. All photographs and images courtesy of Valley Vet.

    This article originally appeared on Valley Vet and is published here with permission. Valley Vet Supply was founded in 1985 by veterinarians for people just like you - people who want the very best for their four-legged friends and livestock.

    There are more informative articles in our section on Health & Education.

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