Winter can be stressful for horses and can even bring some health problems. However, it is a good thing that we as horse owners can do something to help decrease their stress levels, if not prevent it. For horses, more specifically show horses, winter is just like any other season. They are sheltered in a heated barn and are covered with blankets, except during the show. This routine may not exactly apply to field horses or certain horses (in some countries) that may need to work, even in winter.
Stress in horses during the winter usually stems from neglect - whether intentional or not. Caring for a horse can be easy for an everyday task. For example, if you want to ride your horse every day, you make sure it is in its best condition so that it can perform well. However, when winter comes, more often than not the horses are left to graze and worse, forgotten.
A common aspect of neglect is in the care of a horse's hooves. Many homeowners think hoof care is unnecessary when winter arrives. It is true that hooves grow at a faster rate in summer than in winter, but the point is that hooves continue to grow during these winter months. It can be stressful when horses walk on frozen ground and the solution is to take care of the horse's hooves regularly, even in winter.
During the winter, horses also spend most of the time in the stable, which can have its own set of advantages and disadvantages. By nature, horses feed on runoff and spend around 18 hours of grazing time. They have a digestive system intended for the distribution of a continuous diet. However, the modern way of handling horses, especially show horses, means keeping horses in the stables more often by giving a diet high in starch but low in fiber. This would mean that their stomachs will empty at a faster rate. With this practice and routine, gastric ulcers in horses can develop clinical signs like, dull coat, weight loss, and loss of appetite could manifest themselves. The only sure way to identify the presence of ulcers and their severity is through an endoscopic procedure, which your veterinarian can perform. The most popular way to treat gastric ulcers in horses is through the use of Equine Omeprazole. But still, prevention goes a long way and you can prevent ulcers in horses by feeding them often in smaller portions. Avoid feeding a large amount of food at one time. prevention goes a long way and you can prevent ulcers in horses by feeding them often in smaller portions. Avoid feeding a large amount of food at one time. prevention goes a long way and you can prevent ulcers in horses by feeding them often in smaller portions. Avoid feeding a large amount of food at one time.
Other considerations include the components of a horse's diet. Water is an important part of the equine diet and during the winter it is not enough for the horse to obtain its water source from snow or ice. Horses still need cool water. Dehydration is a stress that can develop during the winter and to avoid this you just need to make sure your horse has access to cool, unfrozen water. A water heating unit would do the trick.
Winter should not be a barrier to proper horse care practices. You don't have to learn a lot just to know how to cope with winter stress. It just takes basic observation skills and having a little common sense to deal with it.