Winter can be a long drawn-out challenge in some parts of the world. With temperatures below freezing for several weeks or even months, it can be difficult to keep horses happy and healthy.
On the minds of horse owners are such things as whether or not to blanket, if and when to turn out, how to stop snow from balling up in hooves and how to deal with frozen water supplies.
This article brings together some ideas from members of the Horses forums, on a variety of winter-related subjects.
“If you have eletricity out at your barn, there is a heat tape that is electric. You can probably find it at hardware stores or farm supply stores. Just make sure you follow the directions on how to install… There were problems with the old type of tape but the newer tapes meet safety standards. Just follow directions.”
“This may or may not help you, depending on how your barn is set up. I have a water faucet that is not frost free… I have a closet built around this faucet. The closet is well insulated and about 2.5 feet wide and 6 or 7 feet tall… I live in Michigan and lately we’ve had highs only in the teens and lows around 0 to 5 above. I have a light fixture in the closet to add a little extra heat. It’s located in the lower 1/3 of the closet in an out of the way area next to the faucet. It’s one of those small ones with a safety glass globe and a wire cage around it to prevent it from getting broken. I have a 60 watt bulb in it. It’s controlled by a switch in the closet. With the door shut, the bulb will keep the closet at about 60 degrees, no matter how cold it gets outdoors.”
Water Tank Heaters
“Has anyone ever used a propane warmer to keep water free if ice? The guy I board from found one at a farm supply store. It seems to work great. We have it set up in a 250 gal. trough. Up until a couple of days ago, I was hauling hot water to warm up the water in the trough. Plus, we were having to fish ice out. It’s been a God send.”
To Blanket or Not to Blanket
“I live in Michigan and have owned a 9 year old half-Arab/Pinto gelding for the last 1 1/2 years. He originally came from a heated barn and had no winter coat when I first got him so I put a heavy Big D blanket on him. Now he has grown a good winter coat but I have been told that it is healthier for him to go without a blanket as long as possible. I want to be sure I am doing the right thing, so I wonder what guidelines are used to determine whether or not to blanket.”
“My belief is that if the horse is used to the changing temps and has enough coat to protect themself, they should be OK with the proper feed to help them out. We give ours free access to a good mixed hay and increased grain. This not only keeps them fat, it helps to keep them warm when their bodies are breaking down the food.”
“I was told by my vet that if you do not blanket at the beginning and your horse grows his winter coat, don’t then blanket him when it gets colder. A horses hair stands up to keep him warm, if you put a blanket on the hair can’t stand up, then he may start to shed his coat. I blanket my Arab because he will shake every morning if I don’t, he doesn’t grow enough hair, and Arabs are thin skinned but most horses can keep warm enough without a blanket…. I would say if you blanket, then blanket, if not then don’t at all. It is really just up to you, if you want to or not.”
Keeping Snow out of Hooves
“I have heard that a little bit of Vaseline smeared on the bottom of the hooves works just fine.”
“My horse has to be shod this winter due to some hoof problems. My farrier is putting pads on that have a little bubble like thing on the bottom that pops the snow out.”
“Try spraying the bottoms of the hooves with a cooking spray (i.e. PAM). Non-toxic. If your horse is afraid of the sound of a spray can, try the pump spray.”
Share your own tips and meet other horse enthusiasts in the EquiSearch Forum.