Just like you get yourself ready for the winter months ahead by taking the heavy winter clothing, coats and winter boots out of storage, so, too, you should get your horse prepared.
Well, horses grow their own coats and they don’t wear boots. So what is there to do?
Yes, it is true, mother nature takes care of the horses. Beginning with the time the days grow shorter, the horse’s coats start growing longer for the winter. Some horses, like mine, need to wear a blanket during the colder months to help keep warm. Their coats don’t grow as thick as the other horse’s coats. Other’s grow very fuzzy.
In the middle of summer, your horse’s feed should have been increased to put added weight on them. This helps keep them warm. While some are able to gain weight just by looking at food, there are others where weight gain is a very slow process due to a fast metabolism. Each horse’s metabolism is different, as it is with humans. Some use up more energy than others. Because of this, they may need to wear blankets to keep warm.
Which brings me to the next point, blankets. If your horse is one of those that needs to wear a blanket, bring them out of storage. Hopefully, they were cleaned before storing it in the spring. If not, clean them thoroughly. Also, check for any rips and tears that need repairing and get those taken care of.
Next, stock up on your winter’s supply of hay. If you have limited space for hay storage in your barn, ask the farmer who supplies you with it if he has room to keep it for you until you are able to take it. He will reserve whatever number of bales you need until you are ready for them. In the middle of winter, there tends to be a shortage of hay. If you do happen to find someone with hay at that time, you will be paying top dollar for it, which will hurt your pocketbook.
Just before the snows and the ice begin, it would be a good idea to pull your horse’s shoes for the winter months. The shoes tend to act like ice skates when the horses walk on the snowy and icy ground. Also, the snow tends to ball up in the feet giving them the walking on high heels effect, which tends to put strain on their legs.
Make sure that there is air circulation in the barn and stalls, but not drafty. The draft will cause illnesses to the horses. Ideally, the more the horses are able to be outdoors, the better for a couple of reasons. Number 1: They are born to live outdoors. Being outside to socialize with others will keep them occupied and out of mischief. Horses will get bored if left in a stall 24/7. (Imagine yourself during the winter. I’m sure you’ve heard of “cabin fever”.) Number 2: Being outdoors as much as possible will reduce the chances of illnesses. The last thing you want is to have to call a veterinarian out in the middle of a snowstorm and pay a high fee for it. Number 3: Horses develop bad habits, which can affect their health, if kept in a stall for extended periods of time.
Autumn is a good time to have your horse’s teeth checked and floated. This way you will be certain that they are properly chewing their food to get all the nutrition that is needed to keep their systems working. If the horse is unable to chew his food correctly, it will not digest right and will just come out the other end.
Now that all of these items have been taken care of, winter can come without any worries about your horses, knowing you have prepared them.