4 more days…yes, I am counting down until the end of February. According to the local weather networks, this has been the coldest February on record and for those of you, like me, who have to work outside, we KNOW it is! Even though we have bundled up our horses and ponies this winter in warm blankets and bring most of them into a warm stall at night, they have also had enough of these temperatures! Some of our horses live outside 24/7, but with access to a run in shelter, they are able to get out of the elements.
I have been monitoring our horses and ponies very carefully this winter to make sure that they ARE staying warm and in good health. A good blanket is needed and it must not only be warm but waterproof as snow soaked blankets will only make a pony/horse colder. There are lots of blankets on the market but I have found that the more expensive brands like Rambo and Bucas, last longer and are better quality than others. If you wash and waterproof your blankets at the end of each season of use, this will also help prolong its’ life. It’s important to check blankets over daily for rips and any damage done to surcingles or leg straps. Leg straps should be checked before your horse/pony goes out in the morning and again, when it comes in at night. The same with the surcingles as often, horses and ponies love to roll so the blankets may shift slightly. Now that my horses and ponies have been wearing their blankets for many months, some of them have started to get some slight hair loss across the chest. Once the blankets are removed in early spring, generally, it doesn’t take long for their spring coats to grow in and repair the bald patch.
Another major issue to monitor in the winter is how much water your horse/pony is drinking. Some people assume that horses can eat snow to get their required intake ; however, this is definitely NOT the case. Horses will actually drink more water in the winter than at other times of the year because unlike spring/summer grass, hay is dry and they require more water to help digest and to avoid colic situations. To encourage my horses and ponies to drink more, I keep my outdoor water trough heated and I always have a salt and/or mineral block available. These blocks have vitamins and minerals that they do not get otherwise and the salt block makes them thirsty, which then sends them to the water. My current outdoor trough is 150 gallons and during the winter months, I will fill it up twice/day…that’s alot of drinking! For those horses that come in at night, they have water buckets in their stalls that get filled up several times over the course of the evening. If the buckets are completely frozen at night check, I will replace the bucket with a new one with fresh water. I have become very strong and skilled at using the rubber mallet this year to pound out ice;)
Some of our horses and ponies require a little extra feed over the winter as they may be old or just have trouble keeping up to the chubby ponies. Some of them get grain in the morning and at night – both times after they have had a feeding of hay which generates heat in their bodies. Without going into full detail about who eats what, every horse/pony has specific requirements so when introducing a new feed or when I get a new horse/pony, I always check with my local horse feed nutritionist to see what is best suited for that animal.
So, all of the key elements are covered at Foxwood to keep our ponies and horses happy in the winter: food, water and shelter…and of course lots of love! And let’s hope that all of the shedding we have been seeing while grooming our ponies and horses lately, is a sign that spring is just around the corner!
Until next time,