How to Keep Your Horse Warm in Winter
Cameron Jensen - Monday, July 10, 2017
For every degree below seven degrees celsius, the horse requires an additional 1% digestible energy in their diet to remain warm. In this article, we share several ways you can use nutrition to keep your horse warm this Winter.
The first question many horse owners ask is “What is the best source of digestible energy for warmth in Winter?” Unfortunately, some horse owners immediately assume concentrates are the solution considering their energy density. However, this is just not true.
Fibre, provided in roughage sources, like hay and pasture, remains the best dietary ingredient to promote warmth in cold weather. It does this in two unique ways, which we discuss below.
The Solution: Fibre
Heat production is a by-product of digesting fibre.
- Firstly, heat is produced during normal metabolic processes.
- Secondly, heat is produced when microbial fermentation occurs in the hindgut.
Therefore, feeding fibre will, in turn, help to keep your horse warm — and warmer than if you rely on concentrates alone. Concentrates simply don’t produce as much heat during digestion and microbial fermentation doesn’t even occur when horses are fed grains.
In addition to feeding a high-fibre diet, there are a few other simple strategies you can implement this Winter to keep your horse warm.
1. Provide warm water
Dehydration is still possible in Winter as many horses simply don’t consume enough. Your horse should have unlimited access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. However, if the water temperature is too cold, it may discourage your horse from drinking.
In the paddock, bucket warmers and insulated water troughs are useful to keep the water at a more pleasant temperature. When offering water by hand, check the temperature of the water and heat it slightly if required.
2. Encourage daily movement
It should come as no surprise that movement will warm up your horse. Regular riding isn’t always possible in Winter and it isn’t necessarily required to keep your horse active. By far, the easiest way is to house your horse at pasture with other horses.
In addition to your riding routine, you can also try many fun exercises in-hand. Lunging opens up a whole array of fitness and flexibility exercises — from trot poles and cavalettis, to training gait and lead changes in both directions.
3. Build body condition
A healthy body condition and thick Winter coat will also help to keep your horse warm in Winter. Ideally, your horse should have a body condition score of six or seven in the lead up to Winter. If not, you may need to consider rugging to provide your horse with an extra layer of insulation.
For any horse below their ideal body condition score, a qualified equine nutritionist or your own veterinarian will be able to offer advice to build condition safely. Remain focused on the importance of forage throughout Winter. If pasture is scarce, quality hay will need to be provided.
At Running Cool, we genuinely care about your horse’s health and wellbeing. Our superior horse feed range supports your horse at every stage of life with well-balanced vitamins, minerals and protein for pleasure and performance. Click here to learn more.