The Importance of Equine Care during Cold Weather
Spring is fast approaching, but with the cold nights we are still experiencing, spring feels so far away. No matter if you bundle your horses in blankets or just provide some sort of shelter for them, you still need to watch how the cold weather is affecting them.
With the cold weather, horses tend not to drink as much water as they normally would on a warmer day. Make sure they have an ample supply of fresh water and they are drinking it. If you notice the water level hasn’t moved or barely at all, then it’s time to make a change.
Colic is the number one killer in horses no matter what time of year it is. If a horse doesn’t drink enough water, there is a chance that he/she can develop an impaction. Your horse can also experience dehydration if they don’t have enough clean or unfrozen water.
Tips to Encourage your Horse to Drink More Water in Cold Weather
First, make sure your buckets or tanks have plenty of fresh water. We suggest making it a habit of filling up your animal's water supply every evening. This again ensures they have plenty of water and helps prevent the buckets from accidentally going dry. In cold weather, the faucets or even pipes could freeze, taking additional time to de-thaw. Would the water supply in the buckets last? Avoid situations such as this by taking the time to re-fill continuously.
Second, break and pull out any ice that has formed. Taking out the ice will help prevent refreezing, which would stop horses from getting to their water. It will also help keep the water from getting too cold. If you can connect to an electrical source, we recommend purchasing an electrical heated bucket or a tank heater/de-icer through your area's cold weather months. Having a heated bucket or using a tank heater ensures water will stay at a consistent warm temperature. Using a de-icer will not only stop the water from freezing but will also help in providing easy access to the water all day and night.
Third, provide your horse with good quality hay, a salt lick or loose mineral, and to go an extra step, provide electrolytes. Hay will not only encourage drinking, but also keep their weight up so they aren’t trying to use it to stay warm. Providing a salt lick or loose mineral again will urge them towards a better drinking habit and even help with their overall health. If you are already providing salt to your horses, but don’t think they are still consuming enough water, electrolytes could be the next step. Electrolytes help send a thirst response signal to the horse, which in turn makes them seek out water.
It is cost effective to make some minor adjustments at home rather than find out one day a veterinarian needs to be called. Prevention is key and goes a long way. These tips will help keep not only the horses happy, but also your wallet safe in the long run. For more information, or to discuss your equine questions further, visit Grange Co-op to speak with one of our Grange Experts.