From Dr. Al, Your Pet’s Pal!
It never fails, EVER… the first signs of cold bring more colic emergencies (especially impaction colic) then almost any other time of year! Knowing the basics of horse care is super important for the safety and health of your horse, all year around. Winter is no different. It is not just about checking whether your horse is too hot or cold, wondering if it is too cold or not to ride, at what temperatures are unfair to work a horse, or protecting from blanket accidents, it is about monitoring the health of your horse.
Contrary to popular belief, water is just as important or even more so during the winter as it is during the summer. On an average day, horses will typically drink one gallon of water for 100 pounds of body weight per day. An 1100 pound horse can consume anywhere 10-12 gallons of water in a day. When temperatures drop, the horsed will start to drink less. The importance of providing horses with hay or forage is more than just for body health and condition, but it also promotes the horse to keep drinking. But, WITH HAY OR ANY DRY FORAGE, MUST COME WATER. A free choice, available water source is especially important for horses when you start adding or increasing hay into the horse’s diet, and should never be forgotten about!
A good quality, nutritious hay is also important, and by this time of the year challenging to come by. Many people do not want to be stacking bales of hay at the end of spring and dead of summer, however, come this time of year when winter is in full effect, being prepared is critical to help you and your horse have a healthy winter. When temperatures start to drop and gradually get below freezing, pasture growth becomes minimal. For many farm animals, this means that hay and what is provided to them, is their only option for forage and nutrients in the winter. Hay is not only a way to provide forage, nutrients and increase the horses desire to continue to drink, it is also how a horse has the ability to stay warm.
As it has been said so many times, a horse is like a furnace. Adding hay into the diet keeps that fire burning, heat radiating, and gives the horse the ability to regulate body temperature! An adequate source or hay will not only help keep a horse regulating body temperature but help a horse maintain their weight, as they will not be expending unnecessary calories to try and keep themselves warm. You may find that some horses can maintain their weight through the winter with just an increase in hay consumption, but others that may be older and have difficulty keeping weight on may need some added help and calories, provided with extra grain, high fat feeds, or mashes. **Providing hay in stalls or under run-in sheds will help hay from blowing away, and keep it out of the elements!**
**Concentrate Mashes are another way of adding extra water into your horses diet. But to prevent gas colic, make sure that after adding water to your mix you let the mash sit for 15-30minutes (the longer the better) prior to feeding so that the mash expands before being consumed.
Whether in the rain, cold, ice, snow, wind, horses still need LOTS of water, ESPECIALLY when horses are consuming hay and other dry forages.
Your bucket keeps freezing up? There are the classics ways and there are several DIY hacks online… some work better than others.
- Filling milk jugs or empty bottles with salt water and adding them to the water trough.
- Using water trough circulators
- Using insulator wraps
- TIPS: Use Freeze Free Water Spigots. Disconnect hoses and drain every night *We have a small hose that we use in the winter that is just long enough to reach from the spigot to the trough. It can be easily connected, disconnected, drained and hung up when not in use*. If hose tips are frozen, run some water over it for 10 seconds, then connect to spigot as usual. Collapsible hoses are great and lightweight, however you may want to bring it inside with you when you are done, just to be on the safe side and prevent any remaining water inside from freezing and to allow the hose to expand again when needed to be used.
I have always found that heated buckets or a water trough heaters are always your best bet, cords or not. Access to water is better than an impaction colic. Run extension cords, do what you have to do, but keep the water drinkable, and available at all times. If you have a sheet of ice on your trough or bucket, take a hammer or shovel and break it up/remove. **Having Rubber water buckets will help, as plastic may become very brittle in cold weather and may break very easily!**
Having horses is a responsibility year round, to feed, to water, and to provide protection from the elements when need. And, while horses colic year round for maybe no reason, don’t let a colic due to weather changes or lack of water in the winter be one of those reasons. Stay Warm!
~Dr. Al and LBR