Complete guide to caring for your horse in snowy conditions

caring for your horse in the snow
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Caring for your horse in the snow can be tough going for both of you. We spoke to the World Horse Welfare for advice on how to keep your horse healthy and happy in snowy conditions.

Protection

  • A constructed shelter or hedge will ensure that your horse can find protection from the elements.
  • If your horse has to be rugged, always have a spare one available so you can swap if it gets very wet. It’s important to remove and re-adjust rugs every day so you can check your horse thoroughly.
  • Be careful not to over rug your horse. He could overheat and too many rugs will prevent air circulation.
  • If your horse lives out 24/7, keep a close eye on their legs. In deep and prolonged snow, their legs are not able to fully dry off, which can cause skin conditions.

Nutrition

  • If your grazing is sparse and covered by snow put some hay or haylage out to compensate. However, if your horse is not used to hay or haylage as part of its diet, you may cause problems by suddenly introducing it. If snow is persistent, introduce the forage gradually over a number of days.
  • If you do put hay in the field make sure there are more piles than there are horses, and keep them far enough apart so they can’t kick each other. This reduces bullying and encourages your horse to move around. It also prevents the ground from becoming poached and reduces the risk of conditions such as mud fever.
  • Check the horse regularly for any changes in bodyweight by using a weighbridge or tape. You may be riding less, or increasing the amount of time that your horse is stabled, which means that it is burning fewer calories.

Icy conditions

  • Apply petroleum jelly to the underneath of the horse’s hooves – particularly during exercise – to prevent snow balling up. Remember to remove it all afterwards as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria in warmer weather.
  • Have some sand available to use on icy paths.
  • Make sure fresh water is always available by breaking any ice.
  • Check your fencing regularly and remove any snow and ice from electric tape as the extra weight can bend and break plastic poles.
  • Remember that when the snow melts, the ground will be soft and easy to churn up. To avoid injury and mud fever, take steps to stop the ground being disturbed. Moving your horse to different fields to graze will help. Or you could change the point at which you enter the field so that you don’t disturb the same area repeatedly. Move water troughs regularly if possible and cover particularly muddy areas with straw or sand.

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