By Morgan Ball, Women in Ag Student Assistant
Feeling a severe case of cabin fever? Winter weather can be hard on our bodies and on the bodies of our livestock. Horses hold a special place within in our hearts and livelihoods. It is important to maintain good health practices during the long winter months.
Proper maintenance including: trimming, medications, special diets and hygiene should be daily rituals, but follow these five tips to decrease winter stress.
- Provide Fresh Water- Horses and other animals require access to water 24/7. Be sure to manage the water tank heater. “Make sure your horse has access to good quality water during winter months. Research has shown that horses drink more water during winter when it is heated between 45 and 65 degrees,” advises Dale Miller, Iowa State University Equine Educator.
- Increase Hay Intake- Horses will need to be fed more hay during winter months to make up for the energy they lose through increased body temperature efforts. Fiber digestion will provide inner warmth.
- Allow Access to Windbreak or Shelter- Horses should have access to shelter, but provide ventilation and fresh air. An open shed works well and will provide enough coverage during windy nights. “Horses are generally better suited outside where they can get adequate exercise-as long as they have access to a windbreak or run-in shed for shelter,” said Miller. Horses can tolerate 0 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below, but they are most comfortable between 18 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Continue Exercise- Body movement is crucial during winter months. Contributing to your horse’s exercise program will increase physical wellness and overall fitness. Simply walking or jogging your horse is suitable unless competing. Training will look different for an athlete.
- Cool Down and Dry- allow your horse time to slow down and cool off after exercising. It is important to make sure the horse’s coat is not wet or damp. Heat will escape the body while trying to warm it up if not done adequately.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Equine Science website is available to all Iowans. Be sure to check out their site for blog updates /equine/increase-hay-intake-winter, upcoming events, and educational opportunities https://www.extension.iastate.edu/equine/.