Win­ter Hoof Care

Trail Rider - - SEASONAL GUIDE -

Here are nine ex­pert ways to help keep your horse’s hooves healthy all win­ter long. • Think ahead. Meet with your far­rier to dis­cuss any ad­just­ment of the shoe­ing or trim­ming sched­ule over win­ter. Set far­rier ap­point­ments in ad­vance. Form a Plan B if a shoe­ing ap­point­ment is on a “snow day” when driv­ing may be haz­ardous. • Eliminate haz­ards. Pre­pare the area around your barn and pas­ture for win­ter. Re­move any­thing that can be an un­der-snow haz­ard to a loose horse. Fence off low ar­eas where wa­ter col­lects. In­spect fences, and re­move wire fences that can trap a hoof. • Cre­ate safe paths. De­cide in ad­vance which barn and pas­ture ar­eas you’ll plow and where snow piles will go. Chart the safest paths be­tween stalls and turnout area. Con­sider us­ing land­scap­ing ma­te­ri­als, such as pea rock or wood chips, to “pave” the paths to pro­vide bet­ter trac­tion in light to mod­er­ate snow con­di­tions. • Stock up on trac­tion aids. Keep a sup­ply of shav­ings, old car­pets, and sand on hand to spread on icy ar­eas. • In­crease turnout time. Al­low your horse max­i­mum turnout time to get used to foot­ing changes. • Check blan­ket fit. Make sure that your horse’s blan­ket fits prop­erly and straps are snugly in their keep­ers. Re­move any ex­cess strap length. Your horse can catch a shoe heel (es­pe­cially one with added trac­tion) on blan­ket straps and be­come en­tan­gled. • Plow turnout. Con­sider plow­ing a small turnout area for your horse, if the area is ac­ces­si­ble and the snow is deep. • Limit sand and salt use. Use loose sand and salt for trac­tion only on path­ways, not in your horse’s turnout area. If Left: Al­low your horse max­i­mum turnout time to get used to foot­ing changes. In deep snow such as this, con­sider plow­ing a small turnout area, even if your horse has shel­ter. Inset: Meet with your far­rier to dis­cuss any ad­just­ment of the shoe­ing or trim­ming sched­ule over win­ter. your horse in­gests sand and salt grains, he could suf­fer colic (a di­ges­tive dis­or­der that can be fa­tal). • Let pastern hair grow. Pastern hair pro­tects the hoof head in win­ter. Keep a hairdryer handy to dry legs if scratches (a lower-limb in­fec­tion caused by pro­longed con­tact with dirt and mois­ture) be­comes a prob­lem. — Fran Jurga, edi­tor and pub­lisher of the Glouces­ter, Mas­sachusetts-based Hoof­care & Lame­ness: The Jour­nal of Equine Foot Sci­ence, and au­thor of the in­for­ma­tional Hoof Blog, www. hoof­care.blogspot.com.

Even if you scale back your rid­ing time dur­ing win­ter months, or even give your horse the win­ter off, you need to pro­mote his health in ev­ery way pos­si­ble. Your ba­sic horse-care rou­tine won’t change sig­nif­i­cantly in the win­ter. You’ll need to keep up your horse’s med­i­ca­tions (if any), hoof care, grooming, and reg­u­lar ve­teri­nary checks.

Your horse’s ba­sic nu­tri­tion re­quire­ments also won’t change; he’ll need ad­e­quate wa­ter, for­age, sup­ple­ments, warmth, and ex­er­cise. The only changes will be his win­ter-spe­cific risks and your risk-avoid­ance strate­gies.

Here’s a win­ter-feed­ing check­list to help your horse stay healthy and colic-free.

Wa­ter

En­cour­age suf­fi­cient in­take. Your horse needs clean wa­ter and plenty of it. If he lacks suf­fi­cient wa­ter to di­gest his feed, he’ll be at risk for colic (ab­dom­i­nal pain that can in­di­cate a life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion), the lead­ing killer of horses. His 10- to 12-gal­lon daily re­quire­ment may be higher in win­ter, be­cause he’ll be re­ly­ing on hay and per­haps grain, both of which have very low mois­ture con­tent (10 to 15 per­cent mois­ture) com­pared with fresh pas­ture grass (60 to 80 per­cent mois­ture). Mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture. Of­fer your horse wa­ter be­tween 45 and 65 de­grees Fahren­heit, which will en­cour­age him to drink enough wa­ter to stay hy­drated. If he needs fur­ther en­cour­age­ment, add warm wa­ter to his feed (such as hay cubes/pel­lets, pel­leted feed, and beet pulp) to cre­ate a slurry. To keep ice at bay, in­vest in a wa­ter heater, tank de-icer, or heated wa­ter bucket. Use a rub­ber bucket. When plas­tic wa­ter buck­ets freeze, they can be hard to empty; some crack when slammed against the floor or frozen ground as you knock ice loose. Heavy, black rub­ber buck­ets are much bet­ter at tak­ing the abuse as­so­ci­ated with daily ice re­moval. Check for de­hy­dra­tion. Signs of equine de­hy­dra­tion are dry gums and teeth, lethargy, and dry, hard ma­nure. Test with cap­il­lary-re­fill time; the skin­pinch test doesn’t work well through win­ter hair. Use your thumb to put pres­sure on your horse’s gum, when it turns white, take your thumb away and count the sec­onds un­til the gum turns pink again. If the change takes more than two sec­onds, de­hy­dra­tion is a con­cern.

For­age

Check his teeth. Have any nec­es­sary den­tal work done be­fore win­ter hits, so that your horse will get the max­i­mum ben­e­fit from his hay this win­ter. Feed for warmth. If your horse has a dense coat and is turned out with free-choice hay, his in­ter­nal heater will work around the clock. Horses are de­signed to heat them­selves through the di­ges­tion of for­age (hay or pas­ture) in the hindgut. A plen­ti­ful sup­ply of good hay is your horse’s best de­fense against cold; it’s also your best way to help him avoid colic, founder, and ul­cers as­so­ci­ated with in­cor­rectly feed­ing grain. An­a­lyze the hay. Have your hay an­a­lyzed so you’ll know whether your horse’s nu­tri­tional needs are be­ing met. If it’s lack­ing in spe­cific nutri- ents, ask your ve­teri­nar­ian to ad­vise you about adding a sup­ple­ment to your horse’s diet.

Sup­ple­ments

Sup­ple­ment with care. Se­lect your sup­ple­ments on the ba­sis of hay anal­y­sis; give your horse only what he needs and your hay lacks. Good hay pro­vides ad­e­quate pro­tein and high fiber, which pro­duces heat from di­ges­tion. Check his weight. Horses can lose weight very quickly. In very cold weather, in­ad­e­quately fed horses will burn their stored fat. Next, if their ra­tion re­mains in­ad­e­quate, they’ll be­gin to burn pro­tein from their mus­cles. Check your horse’s weight regularly to pro­tect him from un­seen weight loss, us­ing the Hen­neke Body Con­di­tion Scor­ing Sys­tem. Re­move his blan­ket, if you use one. Reach­ing un­der his win­ter coat with your hands, firmly check his with­ers, back, hips, and ribs. Learn his nor­mal, healthy con­tours. Watch the weather. Un­usual cold can lead to un­ex­pected weight loss. If ex­tra-cold weather is on the way, in­crease your horse’s for­age. Tip: Use a small-hole hay net for ex­tra hay ra­tions. This not only will keep the hay off the ground, but also will en­cour­age your horse to eat small amounts safely and con­tin­u­ously as na­ture de­signed him to do.

Main­tain his weight wisely. If your horse loses weight, try in­creas­ing his hay ra­tion, or feed him a leafier type of hay that has a higher pro­tein con­tent. Grain adds very lit­tle warmth; fat adds calo­ries, but not warmth. Con­sult your vet. If your horse is still los­ing weight, con­sult your ve­teri­nar­ian about adding a small amount of grain to your horse’s diet, then add it in care­fully and grad­u­ally. Of­fer plenty of salt. Salt is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of your horse’s diet year-round. It’s not overkill to have a salt block in his stall, run-in shed, and pas­ture or dry lot.

Ex­er­cise

Of­fer daily ex­er­cise. Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise will help de­crease your horse’s colic risk. Full­time turnout will al­low him free move­ment day and night. How­ever, some­times, only day­time turnout is pos­si­ble. And icy foot­ing makes any turnout im­pos­si­ble. In that case, hand-walk­ing is bet­ter than noth­ing. If nec­es­sary, lay down used bed­ding to cre­ate a walk­ing path.

Warmth

Watch for shiv­er­ing. That said, watch for shiv­er­ing. If your horse is shiv­er­ing, he’s not just cold, he’s too cold. Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, if he’s fit and in good con­di­tion, he shouldn’t be shiv­er­ing. Bring him into a shel­ter (out of wind, rain, and snow), blan­ket him, and call your ve­teri­nar­ian im­me­di­ately. Know blan­ket­ing risks. Blan­kets can rub, re­strict move­ment, and — oddly — cause horses to be­come both over­heated and chilled. Pro­tect­ing your horse is one thing; hold­ing in mois­ture from sweat is quite an­other. A horse that sweats un­der his blan­ket on a sunny day can be­come over­heated and de­hy­drated; since he’s wet, he can also be­come ex­tremely cold dur­ing the night. Know when to blan­ket. Of course, some horses need a blan­ket. Blan­ket your clipped horse, as well as your very old, young, or thin horse. Also blan­ket your horse if you move him from a warm zone to a cold zone mid­win­ter, as he’ll lack his nat­u­ral win­ter coat. Prac­tice safe blan­ket­ing. If you use a blan­ket, re­move it ev­ery morn­ing. Brush off the blan­ket, and groom your horse. Check your horse’s body con­di­tion and for any signs of blan­ket rub. Re-blan­ket him at sup­per­time. — Jes­sica Jahiel, PhD (www.horse-sense. org; www.jes­si­ca­jahiel.com), an in­ter­na­tion­ally-rec­og­nized clin­i­cian and lec­turer, and award-win­ning au­thor of books, ar­ti­cles, and col­umns about horses, rid­ing, teach­ing, and train­ing. Her trade­marked sys­tem of teach­ing and train­ing, Holis­tic Horse­man­ship, is based on es­tab­lish­ing and en­hanc­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trust be­tween horse and rider.

CLIXPHOTO.COM

Horses are de­signed to heat them­selves through the di­ges­tion of for­age (hay or pas­ture) in the hindgut. A plen­ti­ful sup­ply of good hay is your horse’s best de­fense against cold.

CLIXPHOTO.COM

Your horse needs clean wa­ter and plenty of it. If he lacks suf­fi­cient wa­ter to di­gest his feed, he’ll be at risk for colic, the lead­ing killer of horses.

CLIXPHOTO.COM

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise will help de­crease your horse’s colic risk. Full­time turnout will al­low him free move­ment day and night.

CLIXPHOTO.COM

Salt is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of your horse’s diet year-round. It’s not overkill to have a salt block in his stall, and one in his pad­dock or pas­ture, runin shed, and dry lot.

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