I have three easy-keeper horses that grow decent winter coats. Last winter, I noticed one horse shivering after some freezing rain. Winters here aren’t too bad, but we do have ice storms and freezing rain. They only have the trees for shelter. They’re outside 24-7. I’ve never blanketed them before as I’ve read it’s best not to unless absolutely necessary, but I need to do something when it’s cold and wet.
Horse Journal Response
If you start blanketing, you’re going to have provide consistent blanketing. Make sure the blanket is waterproof-breathable and fits well (check the withers, shoulders and hip areas). Get removable elastic leg straps and crisscross surcingles. Be sure the front of the blanket closes without gaping.
If you want the horses to grow heavy natural coats that don’t need blanketing, but want to provide something during the wettest weather for some protection, like during freezing rain or ice storms, consider a rain sheet or a very lightweight blanket that won’t affect their body temperature much but is extremely waterproof and breathable. Avoid water-resistant, as it may not be enough. (Are you sure a small run-in shed is out of the question’) Be sure you don’t leave the blankets on longer than 24 hours without checking for rubs.
My 34-year-old horse has never had problems keeping weight until a couple of months ago. His body weight score is now a 3 (thin). I’ve tried tweaking his feed and increasing his digestive supplement but with no results.
He has no teeth, so he eats mashes of alfalfa/timothy cubes, beet pulp, wheat bran, bagged chopped timothy and Manna Pro Senior. I give him Absorb All for digestive support. I feed him twice a day, with the larger amount in the morning, and he’s on pasture. I think I need to add a weight-building product. Do you have a suggestion’
Horse Journal Response
You’re already doing all the right things for keeping weight on him. Since this is a recent, rapid and significant change, it would be a good idea to look for a medical cause, such as Cushing’s disease or parasite infestation. You could run a fecal egg count or try deworming with ivermectin every three weeks for three treatments (that’s three treatments in nine weeks). Ask your vet to do a chemistry screen and blood counts.
If nothing is found, try switching to an extruded grain concentrate instead of the senior feed, which also contains fiber sources. You’re already getting good amounts of fiber into him with the hays and beet pulp. This will increase the energy density of the diet. These feeds also tend to have moderately high fat so you can get additional fat as well. Stabilized ground flax is also an excellent fat source.
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