Winter Care and Feeding for Your Horse


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My Horse University/eXtension HorseQuest free monthly webcast on winter care and feeding for your horse. Presented by Dr. Carey Williams of Rutgers University.

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  • Winter Care and Feeding for Your Horse

    1. 1. Winter Care & Feeding Carey A. Williams, Ph.D. Rutgers University Rutgers Equine Science Center
    2. 2. Introduction• As the days get shorter and weather get colder and wetter there are many things to consider to maintain horse horse‟s health and sanity through the long winter months• This webinar will address the most common concerns regarding housing, health maintenance, nutrition and exercise
    3. 3. Housing & Shelter• Even in the worst winter most horses do not “need” a stall in a barn – Requirement: at least shelter • i.e. a run in shed or a stand of trees
    4. 4. Housing & Shelter• If horses are maintained in stalls, air quality becomes a concern – Wet bedding and manure should be completely removed at least once a day – Ventilation should be maximized by keeping windows/doors open as much as possible, even in very cold weather – Ceiling fans/vents can also help
    5. 5. Blanketing & Clipping• Rule of thumb: if the horse is shivering it would benefit from a blanket to help keep it warm – Not necessary with a naturally thick hair coat and is adapted to the cold• How many of you blanket your horses? A) Yes B) No C) No, don‟t own a horse
    6. 6. Blanketing & Clipping• There is a wide variety of blankets: – Lightweight “sheets” best for short term use after riding – Thick, water proof “rugs” for horses turned out for long periods of time
    7. 7. Blanketing & Clipping• Select a blanket that is appropriate for your situation – If wet: water resistant and lined with a material that will “wick” the moisture away the skin – If in a stall: make sure the coat is not so heavy to cause the horse to sweat • Sweat under a blanket can contribute to skin irritation and infections
    8. 8. Blanketing & Clipping• It is equally important that the blanket fits the horse well
    9. 9. Blanketing & Clipping• Rub marks can develop on the point of their shoulders, withers and where the straps secure the blanket if it is too small, tight, or ill fitting – If blanketed continuously the blanket must be removed at least once a day • Groom, checked for rub marks, infections and monitor for weight gain or loss
    10. 10. Blanketing & Clipping• If you plan to ride regularly through the season, doing work that will stimulate a lot of sweat, it is recommended to clip:• How many of you clip your horse? A) Yes B) No C) No, don‟t own a horse
    11. 11. Blanketing & Clipping• Body clipped horses may have higher energy needs – They may be worked harder – And will need to generate more heat to stay warm when not blanketed• The hair will not grow back rapidly in the winter – Once you clip a horse be prepared to keep it warm for the rest of the winter
    12. 12. Blanketing & Clipping• Body clip = all the hair • Trace clip = shave the on the neck, legs and hair from the underside body has been shaved, it of the neck and should not be left out in abdomen, and the sides inclement weather even of the horse from the if blanketed elbows to about a quarter of the way up
    13. 13. Blanketing & Clipping• Hunter clip = hair is • Blanket clip = the hair is removed from neck and removed as in a body body as in the hunter clip only hair is left in clip only hair is left on in the saddle area and on the shape of a blanket the legs
    14. 14. Nutrition• A change in feed depends on how hard you are working your horse and how it is housed• Major concerns = 1. Adequate calories to maintain good body condition 2. Adequate water intake to prevent impaction colic
    15. 15. Nutrition• Horses usually need extra energy to help keep them warm – Horses‟ energy requirements will  25 % during the winter months – Usually this can be met with 25% more hay• Extra hay will help keep them warm through the heat of fermentation produced in the hindgut (cecum and colon) when digesting/fermenting the forage
    16. 16. Nutrition• Boredom can be a problem in winter when horses are not being turned out or ridden as much – Keep them happy with free choice hay or forage based feeds • I.e. hay cubes, chaff, etc. – Salt and water will reduce the incidence of stress related problems and vices• Grain and grain-based products should be used only if absolutely necessary to maintain good body condition
    17. 17. Nutrition• Poor quality hay may require supplementation with vitamins and minerals• Be careful when buying special „winter supplements‟ – Any multi-vitamin/mineral balanced for the type of hay you are feeding and life stage of the horse will do
    18. 18. Nutrition• Horses will limit their intake of ice cold water to only what is necessary – This may not be adequate for optimal hydration• Give access to water free of ice at least once a day – Automatic, heated waterers the units should be checked daily
    19. 19. Nutrition• A tablespoon or two of plain salt can be added to the feed to encourage water intake – If feeding pelleted feeds or hay cubes, they can be soaked in water to further increase water intake• Horses should always have free access to salt blocks
    20. 20. Exercise• Stabled horses are often kept in stalls for long periods of time if weather is poor• As long as they have free choice hay, salt and water most will remain perfectly happy – Some will develop swollen legs, or „stock up‟ – Some may be agitated in the stall • It is best to turn them out for exercise as often as possible • Indoor arena work well if no one is using it for riding
    21. 21. Exercise• Horses can go barefoot if they are not ridden often – Better traction on snow and ice – Snow will not “ball up”• If shod “snow pads” are recommended – Full hoof pad or a rim pad – Borium can be used as calks – Ask your farrier about your options
    22. 22. Exercise• Sole bruising is a problem in the winter when working on frozen ground, especially in horses with thin soles – If riding regularly in the winter keep workouts to unfrozen footing (or deeper snow) – If arenas are frozen it may be better to postpone riding instead of risking a bruised sole• How many of you ride outdoors in the winter? A) Yes B) No C) Yes, but not on snow
    23. 23. Exercise• When working in the deeper snow it will act as a sort of resistance training – Be careful that the snow you are riding in is not too heavy and damp • It could potentially cause tendon injuries – If the snow is light, doing trot sets or some lighter flat work can help with cardio and hind end strength
    24. 24. Exercise
    25. 25. Exercise• It is recommended to use a quarter sheet if riding a fully clipped horse in the extreme cold – A sheet that covers the horse‟s hind quarters – Especially during warm up and cool down• With only a trace clip they may only need one when warming up – When cooling down it will depend on the sweat – A quarter sheet might be necessary to help wick away some of the moisture
    26. 26. Exercise• Even with clipped horses it is not recommend to continue exercise with a blanket or sheet• Never leave a hot, wet horse standing in a cold, drafty stall or turning them out in the cold – Could cause them to get chilled – Also potentially stressed to the point where they could get sick
    27. 27. Health• Most horses get their routine vaccinations in the spring• Booster vaccinations for diseases transmitted by direct contact – Recommended if transporting or showing: • Influenza, rhinopneumonitis and strangles• Mosquito borne diseases should not be a problem in the temperate climates• Booster vaccines should be considered if shipping to warmer climates
    28. 28. Health• De-worm only as needed – Based on fecal analysis for intestinal parasite larvae or eggs• Manure should be picked up in the paddocks and sheds – Help prevent unsanitary mud accumulation and skin infections on the lower legs – More important when snow and ice melt
    29. 29. Health• After storms always check the paddocks/pastures for fallen tree limbs• Horses could chew on the branches of potentially toxic trees and shrubs• In the spring, the first green plants to appear are usually the noxious weeds – It is important to feed plenty of hay and try to keep the weed population down by mowing
    30. 30. Facts and Myths• There are several questions I always get asked in the winter, some and myths and some are facts
    31. 31. Bran Mashes• “Bran mashes is good in the winter to keep my horse from colicing.” A.True B.False C.Don‟t know
    32. 32. Bran Mashes• FALSE: – Wheat bran has never been proven to act as a laxative or increase fecal moisture when fed at 50% of the diet – Theory is that wheat bran has high fiber so helps in digestion • Oats have same fiber content as bran • Increase water intake is the only benefit • Very high in P, not recommended to feed daily – Mostly bran mashes are a „Comfort Food‟ • For the owner more so than the horse!
    33. 33. Digestive Aids• “Digestive aids or anti-colic supplements need to be fed in the winter to prevent colic.” A.True B.False C.Don‟t know
    34. 34. Digestive Aids• FALSE: – Digestive aids usually consist of some sort of probiotic or yeast culture • These have never been found to increase digestion in a healthy horse • May be beneficial if sick or has digestive problems – Anti-Colic Supplements have never been scientifically proven – Problem in the winter is usually decreased water intake • That can only be cured by increasing their intake!
    35. 35. Hoof Supplements• “Hoof supplements will help the horses hooves grow quicker and stay healthier in the winter.” A.True B.False C.Don‟t know
    36. 36. Hoof Supplements• FALSE: – Horses hooves may be brittle or crack from the cold dry climate in the winter • Hoof supplements will not help – Biotin and other hoof supplements work from the inside out • A hoof grows from the cornet band down in 6 to 12 mo – If hooves are poor due to weather conditions you need to apply something externally – It is best to talk to your farrier about what product would be best
    37. 37. Calming Aids• “Calming aids or B-vitamins will help keep my horse calm when in the stall for a long period of time.” A.True B.False C.Don‟t know
    38. 38. Calming Aids• UNKNOWN: – These have not been scientifically proven – Some horses become very nervous if stalled for a long period of time • If your horse responds to these supplements they may not be a bad idea – B-vitamins are water-soluble, so if your horse has too much excess, they will just get rid of what they don‟t need in the urine
    39. 39. Take Home Message• Depends on how hard you are working your horse & how it is housed to determine if a change in feed is necessary• Major concerns are adequate calorie intake & adequate water intake
    40. 40. Thank You!Carey Williams, Ph.D.Equine Extension Equine Science Center Better horse care through research & education
    41. 41. Give us your feedback!• You will receive a survey by email. Please take a few minutes to give us your feedback on this webcast. It will help us to better serve you!
    42. 42. Upcoming Webcasts• Feeding & Care of Donkeys and Mules December 6, 2011 | 7PM ET• Find Your Dream Job in the Horse Industry January 10, 2012 | 7PM ET• Horse Boarding Operations - What is Involved? February 28, 2012 | 7PM ET
    43. 43. Thank you for attending this live web presentation! For more information about My Horse University please visit us at: | | 517-353-3123