1. Provide your horse with regular equine bodywork (craniosacral therapy and/or massage therapy) this late fall/winter to help:
Boost your horse’s immune system
Maintain flexibility and reduce chance of injury/re-injury
Lower blood pressure and improve circulation, skin quality and elasticity
Improve performance, mood and general sense of wellbeing.
Regular equine bodywork can also help hard-keepers maintain proper body weight.
2. Provide good winter footing material (sand/crushed rock/wood products, etc.) in high traffic areas & paddocks to reduce mud and erosion, make winter chores easier for you and provide a healthier surface for your horse to stand on.
3. Bring your horse in off pastures, if possible, to allow pastures to recover from grazing and encourage good winter/spring growth.
4. Tarp or spread manure to help keep nutrients in the manure or in your pasture and out of groundwater, creeks & streams.
5. Ensure your horse’s blanket is in good condition and accessiblebefore you need it.
6. Keep your horse relatively active to help them maintain muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and overall flexibility. Note: general daily turnout, though beneficial, isn’t always enough.
7. Provide good feed (plenty of hay, an appropriate portion of grain or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement) to help your horse maintain their weight (recommendation is at about a 5 on the 1-9 body condition score-where 1 is “emaciated” and 9 is “obese”). Bear in mind, your horse’s nutritional needs will vary based on your climate, your horse’s health, age, the amount and type of work he/she is doing, etc., so consult your vet if you aren’t sure.
8. Keep your horse hydrated over the winter by ensuring easy access to clean water that won’t freeze or get icy cold. Remember, your horse will drink more water if it is in the 45-65 F range.
9. Be vigilant to avoid common winter equine health issues, including:
Impaction colic caused by dehydration
Respiratory conditions, ulcers, and degenerative joint diseases exacerbated by spending most of the time in stables and barns without increased ventilation or adequate turnout time.
Hoof and skin conditions like thrush and rain rot exacerbated by soggy footings and rainy weather. Combat these issues by providing clean, dry footing material, picking your horse’s hooves frequently, reducing the amount of hair on fetlocks and lower legs, and grooming your horse frequently. (Be sure to consult your vet if you find painful crusty lumps/scabs forming on your horse’s back and/or rump.)