Horses are amazing creatures and adapt well to their environments.  Our mares prefer to stay out and stay fit during the winter months with the option of coming into the barn and many natural wind breaks on the farm for them as well.  I had a customer ask us about what to do during the exceptional cold snap and I had to go back to basics to be sure it was the right thing for them.  What I do isn't always right for your horses.  It depends on what your standards are at your barn. 

Below are the answers I did come up with.

Once again, my ladies prefer staying outside even with the option of the barn open and ready.  I have multiple areas for wind breaks on the farm and they are acclimated to the weather slowly as it progresses over winter months.  Now my barn cats are a different story.  They prefer a light over their pile of blankets in the barn.

FEED:  I increased their feed and added pelleted protein to their feed (calf mana, amplify, or anything with a pelleted high concentration of protein)  They had all the hay they could stand and lots of excess in case they wanted to lay in it as well. 

WATER: I brought their water inside to keep it a more ambient warm temperature.  Even with the water heater element, it is a struggle to keep it from freezing somewhat outside when there are single digits.  Always have fresh water for your horses.

SHELTER:  I did bring them up into the front lot in case I had to take their decision away from them.  When it is sleeting badly it adds another layer of concern as the ice builds up and they can easily turn a leg.  Same with lots of packable snow.  They come in with snowballs under their hooves which causes them trouble as well.  You try to walk in high heels in the field.

BLANKETS:  I do not blanket mine unless we are travelling and the weather is cold.  There is nothing more miserable than a cold windy day after they have worked up a sweat for you and you go inside the camper leaving them on a tether line adjusting to the difference in body temperature and the wind.  They can't get out of the wind or work up energy to stay warm.  IF your horse stays in often and does not have a full winter coat then that is another matter entirely as you will need to keep the ambient temperature they are "used to" for them to stay warm.  Lock up the barn, put on a heater, put on blankets...remember if possible to give them access to the alleyway areas if they are going to stay up longer as it allows them to exercise some.  BUT...that means you also have to be sure your blankets are a great fit.  When they lay down, roll, or move around too much are they going to get a leg stuck in one of the loops? 

OVERSIGHT:  Check on them often during really bad weather.   Look at their nostrils to see if they are getting sick.  Watch them move to see if they are stiff or fluid.  See if they are eating.  If they are shaking and cold then you have to ramp up the program to offset their needs.  Clean the stalls if you are locking them in long term so they have a comfortable area.  

I hope these pieces of insight that we have help.  If you have anything for me to add here or suggestions.  Please DO send them.  I am always learning. 


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