Winter is fast approaching! So now is the time to ensure your winter care regime is in place to ensure a happy and healthy few months.
All our equine friends cope in their own way when the cold, rain and snow hit. Many native breeds are highly adaptable to the seasons and can live quite comfortably whatever the weather. Slighter breeds, however, such as Arabs and Thoroughbreds, were bred for sunnier climates and require more careful management as the days become shorter. Whichever breed you own, it is important you understand your own horse and their needs in order to provide the best level of care possible.
A man-made field shelter or stable is a fantastic way to ensure your horses always have an escape from the harshest of weather. Natural shelter such as close-growing over hanging trees can certainly do the job just as well, in fact many people favour this as it mimics an equine’s natural habitat.
Once it gets icy and snowy, all the green grass and natural forage can quickly disappear!
Each horse is different and requires a personalised feeding plan in order to maintain condition.
*Tip – check the labels on your current feed, there is usually a helpline number for you to call and obtain reliable advice on feeding your pony correctly, whatever the weather!*
During the winter, horses will grow long, thick greasy coats as natural protection against the harsh elements.
When especially cold, the coat can puff up, trapping the cold air and creating an extra insulating layer. If you choose to rug during the winter months, it is important to remove it regularly to ensure they remain comfortable and to check their condition.
*Tip – Your horses ears can tell you a lot! If they are cold – the rest of him will be cold too!*
When temperatures drop, water buckets and troughs quickly freeze over. Ensure the ice is broken regularly and the shards removed so your horse always has access.
*Tip – a floating ball can stop ice forming on your trough!*
The great news is that grooming must be done less frequently in winter months to ensure you do not strip the coat of its protective oils. These form a waterproof layer to stop the rain irritating the skin.
Common Winter Illnesses
Here at Bransby Horses, we have over 500 equines across our two locations that our dedicated staff provide specialist care for. Here are some of the most common conditions which us, and many horse owners, may be faced with during the coming winter months.
Mud fever is a bacterial infection which causes sore, scabby legs. It can occur when a horse is exposed to wet, muddy conditions for a prolonged period of time. After washing and thoroughly drying the legs, barrier creams and liquid paraffin can be used to prevent Mud fever. Antiseptic sprays and creams can help to soften scabs and provide comfort for your horse.
Similar in nature to mud fever, rain scald is a bacterial infection of the skin caused by over exposure to wet conditions. Warm, damp skin can encourage bacteria to grow and cause infection. Signs of rain scald include itchy skin, matted or a balding coat and lumpy sores. It is advisable to protect your horse from persistent rain by either using an appropriate rug or providing them with adequate shelter.
Colic is abdominal pain which most horses may suffer from during some stage of their lives. Colic can have many causes; the most common being ulcers, a food blockage, worms or twisted gut. It is important any equine carer can recognise the signs of colic as it can be severe, and may even cause premature death if not treated. Signs of colic include pawing the ground, increased breathing rate, rolling, kicking or looking round at the belly.
Thrush is a bacterial infection of the frog in the feet. A horse that has thrush will excrete a foul smell and the frog may appear swollen. Thrush occurs when bacteria becomes trapped in moisture, and can happen when a horse is on wet ground for a prolonged period of time. Prevention is relatively easy and requires regular picking out of the horse’s feet and careful stable and land management. Thrush can be treated with a form of antibacterial, such as Hibiscrub or Hydrogen Peroxide, applied directly to and around the frog.
Heaves is an allergic reaction to something that affects the lungs and airways, and is similar in nature to asthma in humans. Throughout the winter, many horses are stabled more regularly due to the lack of good pasture. This can mean less ventilation for the horse and spores from hay and bedding will be in the air for them to breathe. Using dust free bedding and a good quality forage should help to prevent heaves. Equines who suffer badly with heaves may have to use inhalers regularly to clear their airways.
Bransby Horses advises that if you are concerned that your horse or pony may have any of the above conditions, to seek advice from your vet in the first instance.
Click here if you’d like to find out more about horse and pony care in winter.