Caring for your mature horse in winter
Each to their own and the same goes with horses and maturing into seniors. Several factors weigh into how long it will take for your horse to become a senior, and as with most people, as they get older their needs and requirements change with every passing season. Ensure that you are ready for the winter months to keep your horse warm and comfortable.
We’ve outlined a few characteristics that make winter care of senior horses different to that of their junior counterparts.
- A mature horse’s ability to regulate temperature diminishes as they get older so ensuring that your mature horse has shelter over the winter months is essential. This shelter is not only for the cooler months. In summer it will afford them the required shade to keep cool. Having a windbreak attached to your shelter will keep them protected from winter winds and blizzards.
- Blankets and rugs are vital for keeping your horse warm and comfortable. Ensure they have blankets and rugs, dependant on the weather and if they are stabled or not. You may need to regularly add or remove layers depending on your horse’s environment. Ensure a good fit so they don’t become entwined in it or that it digs in and rubs against your horse causing discomfort.
- Diet is crucial to your senior horse. Energy consumed converts to energy burned which in turn keeps your horse warm during the colder months. You may need to increase their feed to compensate for this loss of energy. Ensure that you are feeding them quality over quantity. This means a high quality forage or hay. The other side to diet is hydration. Water is key to the survival and health of your horse. There are a number of water heaters that prevent water freezing over on the market. Adding warm water to their supply will make it more palatable and attractive. Some owners recommend adding salt licks which encourage your horse to consume more water.
- Health and well being checks will continue to be a part of your assessment every time you visit your horse. By running your hands around their ribs you will be able to determine if their feed level is right or they are under/over fed. Keep in mind that more mature horses are susceptible to illness. With this in mind a regular probiotic will keep your horses system balanced and assist them during the colder months. Colic is more prevalent amongst more mature horses. A regular worming routine will keep this in check. Dewormers as granules are now available and offer easy administer for the fussiest of senior horses, just top dress granules onto feed.
- Maintaining some exercise with your horse will assist them in moving around and stretching out over the winter. Monitor any arthritic changes in your horse and consult your veterinarian should you be concerned. Allowing your older horse to turnout will keep them moving and active.
Man has changed the natural environment of horses
It is important to remember that over the last few hundred years we have migrated horses into environments that are not naturally designed for them. With this in mind, its important to take care of your horse and remember to invest the time and money into keeping them safe, Winter horse care involves keeping your horse warm and healthy during the colder months. Your horse will thank you for it when the ice starts to melt and the promise of spring is on the horizon.