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Winter is Coming: Is your Senior Horse Ready?

Fall is rapidly descending upon us; you can tell by that extra spring in your horse’s step and the slight chill in the night air.

Your horse is probably also growing additional hair already, preparing for the dreaded end of daylight savings time.

If you have a senior horse, generally considered as aged 15 and older, there are a number of items you should be checking off your list now in order to keep him in top form before the winter’s chill arrives.

  1. Check his teeth – senior horses should be checked twice annually to ensure that they are able to maximize the nutrition they are getting. This is especially important in winter to enable them to conserve energy and maintain weight. Having the ability to properly chew will also go a long way in preventing things like choke and colic.

  2. Make a plan to increase his caloric intake. Because horses burn more energy in the winter to keep warm, they need to be able to take in more calories to help them offset this. The addition of (or increase in) roughage to his diet will also help. Increase his feed gradually and find the best spot for him where he maintains a good body condition.

  3. How are your horse’s blankets looking? Are they clean, waterproof, and repaired? Do you have adequate weights for the temperatures you expect? Do they fit properly?

  4. Check all shelters, both inside and out, to make sure they are well-ventilated and dry. Check for sharp edges and drafts, as well as places ice can collect and endanger your horse. Now is the time to make repairs, not after the first snowstorm is forecast.

  5. Do you have a shoeing plan? Many riders choose to pull shoes for the winter to help their horses manage in the snow. Others add snow pads or ask their farriers to put borium studs on the shoes to help them grip on the slick surfaces. Evaluate your expected weather and determine what is best for your horse and the amount of riding you expect to do.

  6. Keeping your horse hydrated in the cold is essential. Many horses do not like to drink cold water, or are hesitant to break through ice. Using a product like Horse Quencher to enhance taste and encourage drinking can be very helpful. You can also try using heated buckets, but be sure to check regularly for loose and damaged wires to avoid a dangerous situation.

  7. Are you going to be riding regularly during the cold months? Keep in mind that you will need longer warm up and cool down periods in order to allow ample time for his muscles to adjust to the temperatures.

  8. Groom thoroughly. Check for changes in his hair coat, skin, hooves, and examine for heat and bumps on his legs. Be on the lookout for any irregularities.

Fall is here, and you know winter is coming. Are you and your senior horse prepared for it?

About the Author:

Stacy Bromley Cheetham, MPA grew up riding horses. She currently resides in Raleigh, NC with her boyfriend, her two rescue Pomeranians, an ornery calico cat, and is working with a promising young OTTB, Indelible (Hanna No Sir) who came from the Track to Tranquility race rehoming program.

She is a fundraiser for a local nonprofit and is the Silent Auction Chair for Duke Jump for the Children, an AA rated horse show benefiting Duke Children’s Hospital. She can usually be found writing, or working on her personal blog The Vegetarian Equestrian.

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