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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Winter care for horses

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Indiana ranks 24th in number of horses, ponies, mules, burros and donkeys in the United States.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that individuals have an interest in caring for their horses during the winter months.

During winter, regardless of what animal species it is, everyone should be concerned with providing their animals with shelter.

For a horse, a three-sided shelter will work as long as the opening is opposite the prevailing winds.

For a single mature horse, the shelter should be at least a minimum of 80-square feet in size with a back wall that is at least 9-feet tall.

The opening should be at least 11- to 12-feet high.

In addition to providing your animals with shelter, you should be concerned with their food intake.

Under normal conditions, horses should eat 1.5-2 percent of their body weight in feed.

However, that rate should be higher during winter months.

Diets high in fiber are nice to utilize during the winter, since the microbial fermentation that occurs while the horse digests the forages will produce heat.

Horses are one of the few animals that you can help keep warm by covering them with a blanket.

However, providing shelter and food need to be done prior to utilizing a blanket.

Horses tend to have longer hair that stands upright, creating an insulated area of warm air against their skin.

If a blanket is used, the hair may flatten and they will lose the insulation against their skin.

You may want to use a blanket if your horse is used for showing or has a short hair coat; it is wet or windy outside; your horse is struggling to adapt to the cold climate for the first time ever; and your horse is older and it is difficult to maintain its weight.

If you do end up utilizing a blanket this winter on your horse, remember to remove it from time to time to check your horse's Body Condition Score (BCS).

Horses are often given BCS between 1 and 9.

A BCS of 1 is considered, "severely emaciated," with no fat cover over the spine, ribs and tail head.

In comparison, a score of 9 is considered, "extremely fat."

A BCS of 5 is considered, "moderate or average."

Being moderate means that there is just the right amount of fat cover over the shoulders, ribs, loin and tail head and only the last two ribs are visible.

Additionally, check to make sure the horse feels dry and warm when feeling underneath the blanket.

If the horse is warm and dry, it means you chose the correct blanket.

If it is wet or cold, it means you need to get a waterproof blanket and one that has more insulation.