Us Brits do love to get in a tizz about the weather. And with the nation bracing for a particularly severe cold snap this week, some people are calling it the “Beast from the East”, while others are stockpiling food and fuel.
Whatever your personal reaction to the weather, the facts tell us that it is definitely going to feel a bit parky out there. Freezing temperatures, supplemented by wind-chill, will make it feel like -15C, forecasters are warning of 20cm of snow in the East of England and in Northern Ireland, and gale force winds could lead to blizzards.
Caring for horses in cold weather
So what about our horses? Extreme conditions present horse owners with their own set of challenges. Here are our top ten practical tips for caring for horses in cold weather.
1. Make sure your horses have plenty to drink
A big risk when temperatures drop so low is that the water in your horse’s bucket or trough will freeze over, preventing them from drinking. A handy tip here is to pop a tennis ball or two bobbing about in the top. If the water freezes, your horse will be able to break the ice by knocking the tennis balls.
And if they really don’t like their water “on the rocks” you could bring them some water warmed to 15C – 20C from time to time. Alternatively, try adding some apple juice or black currant squash to make it that little bit more palatable.
2. To rug or not to rug?
Whilst we like to keep our horses nice and toasty, we must be careful not to over-rug. Even though it is cold, the sun may still be out at times. Don’t forget to stick your hand under their blanket from time to time, to make sure your horse is not sweating under there!
3. Avoid icy grass for your laminitic horse
If your horse is prone to laminitis, avoid turning them out for a few days. When there is a hard frost it raises the sugar content in the grass which is not good for them.
4. Don’t be a hero
Don’t feel you have to exercise with your horse when the weather is very bad. If you are not enjoying it, there is a good chance that they will not be either. Save it for a nicer day.
5. Beware black ice in the morning
If you do make it out for an early morning ride before work, be wary of black ice. Even if you are wrapped up snuggly up there on your horse, it could still be below freezing at ground level. A Shetland Pony is rather handy at times like these!
6. Keep their internal central heating system well fuelled
Don’t worry too much if you see your horse shivering. This is a natural response for them. The bacteria in a horse’s hindgut works like a kind of internal central heating system, generating a surprising amount of internal warmth. All you need to do is ensure it is well fuelled with regular forage.
7. Watch out for snow in their feet
If you take, or turn, your horse out with snow underfoot, check that snow does not get impacted in their feet. One trick to avoid this is to apply some hoof oil to your horse’s soles to stop the snow sticking. And if any snow does get impacted in there, be sure to pick it out.
8. Make sure you are wrapped up warm
A horse will do well for themselves with their thick coat and “internal central heating system”. So if you go out with them makes sure you take care of yourself too and wrap up warm.
9. Don’t let your horse get wet through
If it turns from lovely, fluffy snow to slushy sleet and rain, do start to get concerned about your horse. They may well start to feel that “Beast from the East” wind chill if they are wet through. If the weather turns wet, then make sure your horse has some access to shelter.
10. Be extra vigilant for your senior horses
Like elderly people, veteran horses will feel the cold much more than most, and may well stiffen up. Give them an extra rug and show them you love them by giving them a warm mash of Pure Veteran Pellets.
Caring for your horse in cold weather with Pure Feed
I hope you find these tips for caring for horses in cold weather helpful. If you are one of those people who like to stockpile, you should check out the big discounts for bulk orders of Pure Feed on our shop.