Winterizing Your Horse

By Greg Powers, Regional Sales Manager

As the leaves turn color and autumn heads towards winter, now is a good time to make a list of things to do to properly winterize your horse.

  • Float teeth
  • Body score
  • Pregnancy check
  • Insulate water tank
  • Test forage
  • Provide shelter
  • Check blankets
  • Provide mineral
  • Group animals
  • Deworm

When floating an animal’s teeth it may become necessary to use a power float. Over the years a horse’s mouth may wear unevenly so that his teeth may wave. Teeth that are longer in one part of his mouth may need to be ground down so his whole mouth has a nice even bite. All his teeth need to meet properly when he chews so feed becomes evenly ground for good digestion. A veterinarian can make this decision as to how best to repair teeth. Horses with poor teeth or bite may need to be on a pelleted diet like the Dynasty line as pellets need less chewing.

Body scoring your horse helps determine his need for calories. A body score of 5 or 6 on the Henneke chart should be proper for a horse going into winter. If your horse scores less than ideal remember it takes around 6000 kcals of energy above maintenance levels to put on one pound of gain. With this in mind it takes 40 to 60 pounds of gain to move an average sized horse one body condition score. The Kent Equine Evaluator will give you an indication as to how many kcals of energy will be needed by the horse per day. His lifestyle and activity level are taken into consideration in calculating needs to maintain his body weight. All Kent Equine products have a digestible energy value for you to use to help calculate your horses’ ration. Don’t forget to count the calories from his hay.

It is always wise to pregnancy check exposed mares as this will help determine ration needs and whether she needs housing at foaling time.

Water needs to be a consideration for your horse in the winter. A 1,000 pound horse will need to consume on the average 10 to 12 gallons per day. Make sure your horse has access to this amount of clear clean warm water during frigid temperatures.

Taking a sample of your forages will help you balance your horses ration for energy intakes.

Your horse has special needs in extreme weather and may need the protection of shelter. For each 1 degree F. decrease in temperature below critical temperature [30 to 50 degrees F.] there is an increase of 1% in the digestible energy needs of the horse. Also, if your horse is recuperating from an injury or illness his digestible energy needs will be 1.3 to 1.5 times higher than normal.

Blankets can also be used to protect your horse. A rule of thumb would be if it is cool enough for a sweater for you it is cool enough for a blanket to be needed by a horse. This would be true of a horse with little winter hair. Wet or dirty blankets are worse than no blankets.

Horses have daily requirements for several vitamins and minerals. Provide free choice access to Equestrians Choice® mineral or Equine Choice® Turnout.

Younger, older and timid animals may need to be grouped or fed separately from other herd members. These animals may not be prepared to hold there own in a group situation and therefore lose out on proper nutrition.

Last on the list but certainly not least is the need to deworm your animals. It has been noted that some resistance has been seen to certain deworming compounds. Consult your Veterinarian and feed store to access a good dewormer like Kent’s’ Safeguard® paste dewormer.

Properly winterizing your horse early will result in a nice healthy animal when spring arrives and it time to enjoy riding once again.