Shorter days, colder nights and wintery showers have arrived so we thought it would be a good time to share some top winter care tips...

 

Feeding...

It is common practice for yards to bring horses in to be stabled over winter. If this is your usual routine then make the changes from turnout to stabled gradually, over 10-14 days if possible. This gives your horse's mind and body time to adjust and helps avoid colic.

Horses have evolved to chew for up to 18 hours a day. It is ideal to provide your horse with unlimited forage, preferably at ground level. It helps to keep your horse warm and is vital for a healthy digestive system. If your horse needs a restricted diet, split the daily ration up into several smaller amounts throughout the day to extend feeding time and reduce boredom.

You may need to increase forage amounts for horses living out in the field. This will depend on how much grass there is. Split hay up into piles for horses in larger groups to avoid conflict.

Always have a plentiful supply of fresh, clean drinking water during the winter. On average a 16hh horse drinks 25 litres (6 gallons) of water per day, and some horses may need up to twice this amount.

Rugging Up...

Horses don’t feel the cold like humans so don’t be tempted to over rug your horse. Their coat grows thicker and produces natural oils to help keep them warm and waterproof. Many horses adapt well to winter weather and easily cope without a rug.

If your horses are not rugged up throughout the winter, avoid over-grooming, this can strip the coat of the natural oils and reduce its waterproofing abilities. Ensure any mud is removed from the areas where the tack is fitted before you ride.

Pasture Management...

Carrying out pasture management over winter is good practice. Remove weeds, check drains and ditches are clear and carry out fencing or water supply maintenance. Droppings should be removed at least once a week to reduce exposure to worms.

If you find fields are becoming poached and muddy in certain areas, laying down hardcore or wood chips can help. Rotate water and feeding areas to avoid poaching and don't over stock paddocks. Turnout time may need to be restricted to prevent excessive poaching and reduce the risk of mud fever but always make sure your horse has time out of the stable each day for some daily exercise. This is very important for your horse’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Winter Ailments...

With rain and mud comes winter ailment such as rain scald and mud fever. Mud fever is a non-contagious skin condition that causes irritation, soreness and scabs most commonly on the horse’s pastern and heel. Horses with pink skin under white legs can be more affected. If left untreated, infection can develop underneath the scabs and swelling of the leg in severe cases.

Rain scald is a non-contagious skin condition that can be caused by the same bacteria as mud fever. Scabs with tufted hair can appear along the horse’s neck, back and hind quarters. The condition is usually found in horses exposed to consistent wet weather.

If you are concerned that your horse or pony may have rain scald or mud fever, please phone us for advice, the veterinary team are always on hand to help. 01572 722647