Basic Horse Care
Most horses do extremely well outside all winter as long as you provide a few extra necessities. They should have access to quality hay as much as possible. Hay acts as fuel and creates internal warmth while being digested. Contrary to popular belief, grain does not act as a warming agent in the cold weather. Some horse owners put out round bales to alleviate boredom. Potable drinking water is a must! Water tank and bucket heaters are good tools to keep water from freezing. Horses drink a lot of water in the dry, cold weather. Ice-cold water can easily cause colic, and should be avoided. If you blanket your horse, be sure to use a waterproof blanket. Check daily to make sure your horse is not wet underneath the covering. If an outdoor horse does become wet or damp, it is best to immediately bring them into shelter and dry their coat. It is exposure to moisture, not extreme cold, which is harmful to horses in winter.
Horses need to be turned out with limited grazing in late spring. Too much new grass can cause founder. Laminitis is a condition of the hoof, which can lead to founder. This condition involves swelling of tissues within the hoof, and can permanently harm your horse. In spring, increase your horse’s activity level slowly. This allows conditioning to return. To avoid injuries, be careful when turning horses out if mud and ice are present.
Summer heat can be hard on horses. A few simple steps can ensure your horses’ health in the warm weather. Horses need shade in summer, to get out of direct sun. Horses are susceptible to sunburn, with grey horses being especially sensitive. Sun block can be safely used on them, paying special attention to their noses.
Flies and mosquitoes can cause a numerous problem for your horse. West Nile Virus is of particular concern, and is transmitted by mosquitoes. This fact makes your insect control program extremely important. The use of fly blankets, masks, and spray products reduces the pests in your horses living area. Removing manure promptly reduces the number of flies, and subsequently, the spread of potential diseases and parasites.
Horses should have access to a salt or mineral block at all times. Some owners choose to add electrolytes to their horse feed during the summer. This helps to keep your horse drinking enough water.
State law requires that when horses are outside, they must have access to shelter. Shelter can be a 3-sided lean-to or a roof extension that protrudes from a barn. A thick tree line can also act as a great windbreak, but would not be sufficient for year-round needs. Check with your local humane officer to discuss further sheltering requirements.
Always provide clean, fresh water daily. The simplest way to control parasites and algae in your horses’ water source is by daily cleaning.
Always do a daily check of your fencing. Make sure there are no loose or broken boards, exposed nails or areas a horse can cut itself. If you have metal t-post fencing, check that all wires are properly strung. It is a good idea to put plastic caps on top of posts, as the posts are extremely sharp and could cause injury.
On our Find A Vet Page, you can look for local equine veterinarians.