Pets & Animal Horses

Keeping Horses in the Snow

CARING FOR HORSES IN THE SNOW It takes twice as long, and is twice as hard to look after horses in snow and icy conditions.
If the horse is fit and working, it can be quite stressful to keep him enclosed in his stable.
Included are ways to keep your horse happy and in work even in the snow.
Ice: Around the yard you need to take extra care in icy conditions.
Try not to spill any water on the ground causing icy puddles which are dangerous for humans and horses alike.
Keep water spillage to a minimum.
Do no let buckets overflow or allow the hose to run water on to the ground.
When the temperature is freezing, any water laying on the ground is bound to ice over causing a hazard for you and for anyone else on the yard.
If the temperatures are not that cold, the puddle of water might not freeze right away, but when the sun goes down and overnight when the temperature drops, it most probably will.
First thing next morning it will be a skating rink for sure.
Water Containers: It is a huge advantage to have a large water container right next to the tap/hose.
Fill or half fill the container with water before you start your stable chores in the morning.
Keep one clean bucket next to it specifically for dipping and filling your horses water buckets.
If that 'dipping' bucket is brightly coloured, it might even stay put! If it has a tendency to get borrowed and go missing, use a suitable length of bailing twice to tie it to the container or tap.
You need another spare bucket or container in which to empty the dirty swilled out water from your feed bins and buckets.
Wash all feed buckets at the same time and once you have filled your spare bucket with dirty swilled water, carefully tip it down the drain.
Be sure you don't spill water around the drain.
Tip all water carefully so that you don't spill any.
Sprinkle a little table salt around any area you spill water to stop it icing over.
Providing the pipes are not likely to freeze you should empty the large container at night otherwise it will just freeze over.
Haynets and hay: Have you thought of steaming instead of soaking your hay.
If you usually soak your hay or damp it down then think hard about whether you should do this in the freezing weather.
It could cause the haylage or hay to become frozen.
Instead of soaking it why not consider steaming it.
Place the hay in a plastic bin - pour 1 kettle of boiling water down the side of the bin so that it doesn't coat the hay.
Cover tightly and leave for 15 minutes.
This provides sufficient moisture to lay the spores (dust) without making the hay actually wet.
Under normal circumstances, to steam hay you should use 2 kettles of water and leave for 30 mins.
Walkways and paths for horses and humans in the ice: Buy some gritting salt if you can and sprinkle on paths and walkways to keep them clear of ice.
Compacted snow will also melt using gritting salt but if the snow is thick you need to clear the worst first.
If you cannot get hold of gritting salt, and the areas are not too large, you could use ordinary table salt.
For larger, longer paths and walkways when gritting salt is not available, you can use sand or fine gravel to provide grip for both horse and human feet.
Failing all these you might consider using straw or other bedding (used or new), to cover walkways.
Be aware however, that once it all thaws, there will be a mess to clear up.
Exercise & exercise areas in the snow: Some are lucky enough to have the use of an indoor school.
Others have an outdoor school.
Providing the outdoor arena surface doesn't freeze, the school can be used to keep the horse working and will also provide an area for some turnout time.
If this is the only option for exercise and turnout for several horses the owners must work together to ensure all the horses get some freedom as well as ridden or working time.
If your horse cannot be ridden, you must not leave it standing in the stable for 24 hours every day.
That is just plain cruel.
It causes a stressed horse and invariably a stressed owner.
As an equivalent comparison, imagine yourself being trapped in a room a little larger than the average toilet for 24 hours or more and you are putting yourself in the same position as the horse.
Being enclosed in a small space for so long means it will be climbing the walls to get out and on eventual release will most probably be just a tad over enthusiastic.
Keep your horse happy by allowing him some freedom.
You must at least lead the horse out somehow or lunge it.
The horse must come out of his stable every single day.
Remember that lunging (properly executed) for 20 minutes is equivalent to working the horse under saddle for an hour.
You might at first think it is impossible to provide him with freedom and exercise but with a little thought and a few improvisations a good deal can be accomplished.
How to lead a difficult horse: If the horse is difficult to lead - perhaps because of over exuberance at having been incarcerated for too many hours, put a bridle on over the head collar.
This will give you a little more control.
It is much the safest way to lead, especially if the ground is icy or snow-covered.
Make a Temporary Lunging ring: If you do not have an indoor school and need to keep the horse in some sort of work - perhaps because you have a competition coming up, you can improvise on exercise areas.
It is possible to use the dirty bedding to make a half decent lunging ring in your paddock or field.
This obviously isn't ideal but in emergencies can be the only way to keep a horse exercised.
Some thought must be given to the area used.
Once the snow thaws it will be difficult to pick up your improvised lunge area and the bedding will be churned into the grass.
Chose your area carefully.
Feeding: Most people are aware that if the horse is to be stabled for long periods or is not working as much as normal they should cut the feed down.
However, what does 'cutting the feed down' actually mean? It means cutting down the type or amount of the bucket feed - the energy a horse needs to work is provided by the feed we give in the feed bucket or manger.
To avoid the over exuberance, you should of course have reduced the amount of energy feed you are providing in that bucket.
If the horse is not doing any work at all - he should be having very little energy feed indeed.
In fact he should have just a handful mixed in with some chaff and carrots along with a good all round supplement (he will be missing out on the vitamins and minerals which the feed company put in the energy feed so you must replace that).
'Cutting down the feed': This does not mean you should reduce the amount of overall food intake.
That would be just plain stupid whether we are talking about horse or human.
Most of us are aware that when it is cold we have a tendency to eat a little more than normal.
The reason for this is that the body uses up, or burns off fat (weight) to keep warm.
Horses are the same.
We need therefore, to replace the burnt off fat by giving more weight producing food to provide the weight again.
Keeping weight on in Winter: The horses main food for providing weight is hay or haylage (in the Summer in most cases it is of course grass).
Not only must you provide that little extra hay to replace the amount of weight they are burning off, you need also to somehow replace it lb for lb or kg for kg with the amount of energy food on which you have been cutting down! If you replace the usual energy food in the bucket with more chaff or other high fibre feed that will be fine - otherwise just give more hay/haylage.
Cutting down the food therefore, means cutting down ONLY on the energy giving qualities of the food in the bucket.
Be Prepared - Planning ahead for diet changes: The complete change over from the energy food you usually feed to high fibre food should of course be done over a period of a few days to enable the horses digestive system to adjust.
You should plan ahead for this to avoid colic.
If the weather forecast tells you a cold snap is on the way with possible icy conditions and snow, be prepared.
You need to be aware that it is possible your horse might be stabled for longer than normal and you might not be able to ride for a few days.
This means you will need to reduce the energy food and introduce something else instead (to replace it weight for weight).
If you were not ready for the cold snap this time - be prepared for the next one.
Turnout & freedom: Sometimes it is impossible even to lead it to the field for an hour or so.
An outdoor school is often ideal alternative for turnout.
That little bit of freedom every day is absolutely vital for the wellbeing of your horse.
It is often possible to provide a small fenced off or corralled area in front of the stable/s to allow the horse freedom to walk in and out as it pleases during the day.
If you have a block of a few stables it is a good idea to set this up on a permanent basis.
On a temporary basis you could use electric fencing tape or whatever you have to hand as long as it is secure.
It enables the horses to stretch their legs, walk about and interact with each other.
They may visit another horses stable just to check it out but rarely do they stay long.
Horses like their own space and usually keep to their own stable.
This is a far more natural way to keep horses and should be used whenever possible.
Some horses may well be greedier than others and may well make free use of hay in other stables.
Providing there is plenty of hay available no horse is likely to go hungry nor will arguments persist over whose hay is whose after the first day.
It would however, be sensible to be on hand the first time you set this corral system up.
Especially if the horses are not used to being turned out with each other as a rule.
Riding and Leading on snow and ice: When it comes to riding and leading over snow and ice take great care.
Always dismount to cross icy or slippery patches.
He can balance better without you on top.
Most horses wear shoes which make it much more slippery for them on ice.
Give the horse a loose rope/rein and allow him to pick his own way and to use his head and neck to balance.
To restrict the head by keeping him on a short rope or rein may mean he cannot balance so well should he start to slip.
Should he slip and fall you must be ready to get out of the way of flailing hooves.
Provide a Barrier: Walking over soft snow means the snow balls up in the underside of the foot.
When riding or turning out, you can easily avoid this by smearing petroleum jelly (e.
g.
Vaseline) on the underside of the foot.
This helps to prevent the snow sticking.
This coating provides a water resistant barrier beneath which it is nice and warm.
This therefore, provides an ideal place for bacteria to thrive so don't forget to scrub and clean the soles thoroughly once the snow has thawed.
Providing a barrier on the lower leg as well will ensure there is a barrier to protect the skin against the wet.
This is especially useful for those horses which are prone to mud fever - a problem caused by prolonged wet conditions.
Keep an eye out for early signs of mud fever in wet conditions.
Warmth from rugs: Try to keep a spare dry rug available so that you can change the horses rug when it gets wet.
If possible do not put too many rugs on - it is better to use light weight but warm rugs.
Keep them warm at night when the temperature drops.
Do not however, over-rug or the horse will become over heated.
They need a little air circulation and thick rugs (especially heavy ones) might prevent this.
A late night hay net/supply is especially important in very cold weather.
Use a neck cover for extra warmth if you absolutely must, but they tend to rub off the mane on horses with a fine coat, so be aware.
If this happens, there is little you can do about it.
Try next year to allow the horse to grow a slightly thicker coat by rugging less, thus providing a more natural protective coat for the cold weather, and avoid using the neck cover if possible.
Field water supplies: Be sure to check field troughs to break the ice - horses do not usually do this themselves unless it is very thin.
You will probably have to resort to providing buckets if the troughs are automatic fillers because the water pipes in the ground which feed the troughs will be frozen.
Horses still drink quite a lot of water every day even in the snow so you must provide water for them in the field.
Tie the buckets to the fence to help prevent them being knocked over quite so easily.
The alternative to buckets is to have a large container and fill it with buckets on a daily basis - but remember the water in the container will also freeze.
A large container is just as difficult to keep ice free as an automatic filler.
Field Shelter: Horses should have some shelter in the field even if only out there during the day.
Make sure it is large enough for all the horses and has good wide opening.
It needs more than one opening if there is likely to be any bullying.
The timid and older horses should always be provided with an escape route.
Do not feed hay inside field shelters if you have several horses.
This is bound to cause problems for older and timid horses owing to the natural pecking order.
Feed hay in separate piles well clear of each other and always have a spare pile to enable the timid horse to get his fair share.
Finally - The main things to remember during snow and ice is to reduce all energy giving food, provide the horse with warmth and life which is as natural as possible by giving it as much freedom / exercise as you can.

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