Frozen – Horse Whispering

By: Deb Kitchenmaster
UFFDA! Uffda is a Norwegian slang word expressing surprise. (Note: I did not learn this word from President Trump). What a surprise!–the drop in temperature, and having our fields covered in white–and it’s not cotton. I want to talk to you about the needs of your horse in these cold temps.

To ease the transition into winter, horses should be properly de-wormed (i.e. based on fecal analysis and in good body condition). Check out, and you will see on the right hand side of the page, “Natural Solutions” for people, pets, and horses. When you click on it, it will take you to Dr. Dan Moore, DVM. Under “Horses” you will see WORM CHECK EXAM for $12.00. All the information is there explaining how much fecal matter to collect and the address of the lab to send it to. This clinic has been wonderful to work with. The results will be emailed to you. At this point you will know if your horse needs to be wormed or not. Dr. Dan has WORM CHECK, an all natural herbal paste formula that can be used on any horse, any age. I want to encourage you not to de-worm a horse if the horse doesn’t need it, but be sure to de-worm when necessary. When we get into the mind-set of worming every 3 to 4 months as a routine or habit, we could be missing one important factor — the individual horse itself.

Horses, given the opportunity to acclimate to cold temperatures, often prefer and are better off being outdoors. Winter feed (hay and grain) contain less that 15% moisture, compared to pasture grazing which is between 60% and 80% moisture; therefore, water consumption is vital. A thousand pound horse requires a minimum of 10 to 12 gallons of water each day. During winter months water should be kept between 45? to 65? F. Adult horses should consume one to two ounces of salt per day. Consider feeding loose salt instead of block salt, as horses may not want to lick cold salt blocks during winter months. A couple of complications from inadequate water consumption during cold weather are (a) decreased feed intake, and (b) impaction colic. Horses will consume less feed if not drinking enough water, and less energy creates challenges for horses in cold temperatures. Energy needs for a horse at maintenance increase about 1% for each degree below 18? F. If the temperature is 0? F, a 1000 pound idle, adult horse would need approximately 2 additional pounds of forage daily. It is in the horse’s best interest to provide extra forage rather than increase grain. More heat is produced from the microbial fermentation of forage. Fecal contents must maintain adequate moisture levels in order to be healthy. A horse will not develop impaction in one day, but will after several days or weeks of inadequate water consumption.

Your horse’s hooves generally grow more slowly in the winter. However, your horse should be trimmed every 6 to 12 weeks. Our farrier comes every 8 weeks for our horses, and was just here. Two horses needed all four hooves trimmed, one did not need any trimming at all, and the other two horses needed only their front hooves trimmed. The trimming or the shoeing depends on each horse and the amount of hoof they grow. You are blessed when you have a farrier that will serve each horse at their point of need, and I am so grateful our horses have the farrier we have to care for them. Just like a chiropractor can either help you or hurt you, so it is with the farrier you have for your horse.

Wrapping this up in a warm insulated blanket…during winter months…

  • De-worm your horse based on fecal analysis
  • Provide plenty of clean warmed water (45? to 65? F)
  • Feed additional hay during extreme cold
  • Feed loose salt every day
  • Hoof care every six to twelve weeks

May the crunching sound your horse makes as he enjoys the forage you have placed before him warm your heart, fingers and toes.