Winter is a tough time for many horse owners. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to ride as often as you wish, but you’ll want to be able to pick up where you left off when the weather warms up in the spring. Less activity plus colder weather gives you a new challenge: maintaining your horse’s weight and keeping him fit during the winter months. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we head into winter.
Ideally, horses should be slightly heavier in winter to give them some insulation from the cold, not to mention energy to burn to help keep themselves warm. In the summer you should be able to feel your horse’s ribs readily, but not see them when you stand back and view the horse. That’s considered about a 5 on the body condition scale, which ranges from 1 to 9. Heading into winter, however, you’ll want your horse to be slightly heavier, though not too fat. Remember that in winter, with the thicker hair coat, you’ll need to feel for body condition and not just look. Feel for spongier ribs than in summer and a slight crease down the spine. Grooming is an excellent time to do this in winter, and regular grooming will also help prevent skin conditions such as fungus or rubbing underneath blankets.
If your horse needs to gain a little weight in order to achieve that ideal winter weight, how do you go about it in a healthy manner? It’s important to remember that you’re only looking for a slight weight gain, and that a reduction in physical exercise will help speed this along. One option is quite simply to provide more feed, as even a slight increase will provide the additional calories needed for weight gain. Another option is to assess what you’re feeding, and consider a feed with a higher fat or protein content. Supplementing your horse’s usual diet with hay pellets or alfalfa cubes can help. Consult with your vet for help planning a healthy horse diet for winter.
With some extra feed coming their way, and especially if you want to be able to spend less time re-conditioning your horse in the spring, it’s important to maintain your horse’s activity levels even in the winter. Of course, for some horse owners there may be entire weeks when you’re unable to ride, depending on climate, facilities, and the individual horse and owner. But even light activity is good for horses, both physically and mentally, so try to at least get your horse out and walk him around a bit on the better days throughout the winter. Expect winter rides to be much lower key than during nicer weather. Usually you’ll want less athletic rides with longer warm-up and cool-down periods. More athletic rides are okay too, but just remember that you’ll have to leave sufficient time to cool out your horse properly at the end of the ride.
Ensuring your horse is getting everything he needs in his feed is one of the most important factors of a healthy horse diet. There’s no better way to make sure his diet is full of the nutrients he needs than with pelleted feed, which has a guaranteed nutritional content. For more information about our feeds or to discuss how we can meet your horse’s needs, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.