Horse Health Must-Haves for Winter

Caring for your horse can feel daunting, especially during the winter. Whether you're concerned about nutrition, hoof health, grooming, or just overall wellness, we have a solution to suit your horse's needs. We’ve outlined a few of our top concerns with winter horse care and hope they offer the solutions you need.

Horse Diet & Nutrition Must-Haves for Winter

Horses have differing nutritional needs throughout the seasons, especially in areas where winter is more prominent. During the winter, natural forage and minerals are not as readily available. This can cause weight loss and mineral deficiencies. You may notice your horse's coat is more dull or uneven hair growth, often caused by vitamin or mineral deficiency. There are various ways to combat weight loss from lack of forage that also double to get your horse the minerals they may be lacking. Increased hay consumption can keep weight on and may help with mineral deficiencies. To know your hay's mineral content and nutritional properties, you would need to test it. Still, this service is relatively inexpensive and a great way to understand your horse's needs if you continue to struggle with weight loss and mineral deficiencies. But increasing your horse's hay may increase hay wastage as not all horses are neat and tidy. With that in mind, a hay bag, hay net, or hay rack will allow you to feed more hay with less wastage, and in the case of slow feed options, it will keep your horse occupied with the hay longer.

If additional hay isn't an option or a good solution adding extra grain, a supplement is the next step. Adding a ration balancer or fat supplement depending on if mineral deficiency or weight loss is your main concern may be helpful. Ration balancers can be fed as a stand-alone grain for easy keepers or as a top dress along with your regular grain regiment. Ration balancers are formulated with a specific balance of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. If you feel the weight loss is simply a matter of more calories, fat supplements tend to work well and help with coat condition. All-in-one supplements like Equine Omega Complete offer a high-fat concentration like a fat supplement would, along with vitamins and minerals. So, they offer a more well-rounded approach.

Another crucial part of keeping your horse healthy during the winter is water intake. We usually think that water intake is most vital in warm weather, but it is also imperative during the winter. Water and hay both help keep your horse's gut moving and healthy. The hard part about water in the winter is hoses and buckets freezing. For those with automatic waterers, this can be frustrating and cause them to hang buckets as well. Heated automatic waterers alleviate this issue significantly. There are bucket insulators or plug-in heated bucket options for those without automatic waterers or who prefer traditional water buckets.

Horse Health Must-Haves for Winter

Another culprit of weight loss may have little to do with your current feeding system. Ulcers can be painful and cause weight loss or stunt weight gain. They can be caused by various factors, including lack of forage, large grain portions, and stress. Other ulcer symptoms can be poor performance, colic, poor hair coat, or reduced appetite. Ulcers are usually diagnosed by a veterinarian after they scope your horse. After the initial treatment, digestive or ulcer prevention supplements are typically recommended. A top choice for most trainers and riders is UlcerGard®. It can be used daily or just in higher stress situations like trailering or horse shows.

Weight loss can also be caused by an inconsistent deworming program or an incorrect rotation schedule. Dewormers are an essential part of your horse's seasonal schedule. If you're not sure what your horse received last, or you notice a shift in weight or coat quality, having a veterinarian run a Fecal Egg Count is advised. This will give you insight into what parasite eggs they are shedding and what quantities. Once you know what to treat for you, pick the correct type of dewormer and rotate accordingly.

Some skin and coat issues require a purely topical solution. Many horses suffer from mud fever/scratches or rain rot in winter. Treating these in the warmer months has its benefits. In winter, it is often less convenient to wash or scrub legs. Topical sprays, powders, or pastes like Coat Defense® offer preventative and treatment options. The paste option creates a protective layer that dries and soothes, perfect for moisture-based skin and coat issues.

Hoof Care Must-Haves for Winter

Hoof care is a balance between internal and external solutions. Some issues like brittleness or slow growth may require a two-prong solution. Whereas say thrush tends to only be impacted by external treatment. Diet and environmental factors like turnout time and conditions impact hoof health. A well-rounded diet will give your horse the building blocks for better hooves. If your horse already has a balanced diet, you may need a hoof supplement to provide more of the building blocks hooves need to grow like biotin and amino acids. Wet conditions in turnout can cause too much moisture in the hoof contributing to cracks or thrush. Topical treatments range from hoof hardeners, like Keratex, meant to create a more substantial barrier on the outer hoof wall or treatments for thrush that is applied to the soft underside of the hoof and frog area. Hoof hardeners are not meant to be used on naturally more delicate tissue like the frog or coronet band but can protect the outer hoof wall and horn. Thrush treatments create a clean barrier preventing dirt from penetrating the frog.

Grooming Must-Haves for Winter

Grooming in the winter can be challenging. Horses that are clipped or unclipped are often drier than in other seasons during the winter. It's also more difficult to bathe horses if there isn't a heated barn or hot water. A leave-in conditioner or moisturizing spray can help with dry skin or coats. These products work to detangle and hydrate on manes and tails, while on a horse's overall haircoat, they can control dry, itchy skin or dandruff. Some even help repel dirt, making grooming a more straightforward process. But to use these products, it's best to have a clean horse. The Insta-Hot® offers the ability to have hot water anywhere. This allows you to bathe your horse comfortably year-round. This product is portable, so it isn't just useful at home but when away at shows or on extended trail rides.

Winter can be brutal for both horse and rider, but there's a solution to every problem thrown our way throughout the season. This is just a few common problems we hope to help you solve. Let us know what your top winter horse problems are in the comments below.