Provided By Safety Check, Inc.
Winter certainly came early this year in the Midwest. The first chill was a brisk wake up call to transition to our cold weather health and safety program inside our barn. Whether in an indoor facility or pastured, horses may not be bothered too much by the cold; however, as responsible equestrians we should take some simple steps to maintain our healthy horses during the rest of this long winter.
If your horses are spending more time out of the cold elements, the crowded barn can become a hotbed for disease. Parasite control, vaccinations, routine veterinary care and barn hygiene become paramount. Check with your veterinarian for guidance on additional cold weather vaccines that may be necessary for your region of the country. Remember to protect your equine medications from freezing; extreme cold may lead to the breakdown of liquid injectables and supplements. Keep medications in a climate-controlled area. If something accidentally freezes, contact the manufacturer to determine whether it’s still safe for use.
During the winter months your horses should maintain their current body condition with regular diet and moderate exercise. More than ever, clean water is important. Horses will consume more water if it is kept at 45 degrees. If this is not feasible in your barn, make sure that any ice formed is removed at least twice daily. Water buckets kept outside can be kept warm with heating elements. Without the nutrients of summertime grass, hay becomes a larger portion of a horse’s winter diet. Good-quality hay can help maintain optimum body condition. Consider adjusting the amount of grain given if they are not able to maintain an adequate body condition on a hay only diet. Be sure to make these changes gradually; sudden changes to diet can increase the risk of colic.
Just as we treat ourselves, keep horses comfortable and their body temperatures constant. If your horses are body clipped or exposed to wet conditions, use horse blankets to help them stay dry and warm. The blanket should not be too loose or tight with crossing straps in the rear. Make certain your horses have been properly cooled and are dry after rigorous exercise. Most horses, no matter what age, that enter winter in good condition will be just fine with the same daily care and a few minor adjustments — even in the coldest winter winds. The importance of preventative safety remains paramount. Daily inspections of the environment your horses live in go a long way in preventing emergencies. We at Safety Check Inc. are trained in hazard analysis and accident prevention. For an equine safety consultation or barn walkthrough, please feel free to contact us at (815) 475-9991.