How To Keep Your Horse Happy And Healthy In Winter

When you ride a horse you will find that they become much more than just a hobby. These are living creatures, and highly beautiful and intelligent ones at that. What makes horse-riding so rewarding is the fact that you're working together with a powerful animal in order to accomplish something, and during this process you will form a powerful bond of friendship that others may not understand.

This is the beauty of riding a horse, but if it has a downside, it's that you're then going to find yourself worrying about your new friend. This is particularly true in the winter when they'll be outside in the cold. Of course you can't keep a horse indoors as they're rather too large for that, but leaving them outside in the cold while you're snuggled up indoors can feel a cold heartedā€¦

Don't worry though - as long as you know what you're doing your horsey should be perfectly fine. Here we will look at how to keep your horse happy and healthy in winter to ensure that's the case.

A Horse's Natural Defences

Horses

Before you get too worried about your horse, remember this: they are wild animals and they are very much used to living in the wild. Unlike humans, horses are not domesticated and they have remained well suited to the harsh conditions found outside.

Fat: And horses have a number of natural defences to help them cope. The first is their fat which provides a protective and insulating layer just under the skin. This will right away keep them warmer in much the same way that it does for humans, so now is the time to feed your horse right up. Give them a little more feed than you perhaps normally would do, and make sure that they are eating it.

Immune System: Horses also have strong immune systems which is why they don't get pneumonia like you and I might when left outside in the cold. Again though, that doesn't make them invincible - you need to nurture and take care of this immune system which is another reason that diet is so important. As well as lots of carbs, make sure your horse is getting plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Hair: The main defence that horses have against the cold though (or perhaps the mane defenceā€¦) is their beautiful coat which gives them the biggest edge over us.

The way this works is to trap air in the pockets between the hair follicles, which works wonderfully thanks to the fact that air is such a good insulator (also why string vests and double glazing are great at keeping heat in). When horses get cold their hairs will stand up slightly thus capturing more air and keeping them warmer as a result.

This is something to consider when considering the use of blankets to help your horse stay warm. It might seem logical that covering your horse in blankets could help them to stay warmer, but actually the reverse can be true as heavy blankets will flatten the hair underneath thus preventing them from doing their job properly and trapping that insulating air. Let your horse's hair do its job!

Another Common Mistake

Horse and sleigh

Another common mistake when trying to take care of a horse or multiple horses is to shut them in a stable in order to keep them warm. This might keep out the cold air, but as we've established that cold air is not too much of a problem for horses. What is a problem is moisture in the air which can carry bacteria and cause breathing problems: and this is more likely to occur if you shut your horse in and don't allow any ventilation. Particularly if there are a number of horses out there. Again then - let nature do its job and keep that breeze coming.

Other Notes

Greenland Tourism_Greenland horses winter

What you can do though is to make sure that your horse has plenty of hay and straw in their stable and that there are no leaks. Likewise, make sure to check your horse themselves to ensure they look healthy and aren't losing weight. Feel around the ribs and if you suspect your horse isn't well, make sure to see a vet.

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The author of this article, Nick Anderson, is a sales executive at Saddleworld Dural, an online company that specializes in supplying the finest horse saddles. He has a keen interest in horses and enjoys camping in his spare time.