Horse Owner’s Win­ter Note­book

Trail Rider - - CONTENTS -

A roundup of sea­sonal tips, check­lists, and guides — on health care, hoof care, haul­ing, nu­tri­tion, blan­ket­ing, and man­age­ment — to help you keep your horse healthy and safe all win­ter long.

Over­come 5 Cold-Weather Chal­lenges

Win­ter rid­ing is exhilarating, but it can pose some prob­lems. Here, we out­line five po­ten­tial win­ter-rid­ing chal­lenges, then give you the ex­pert fix for each one.

1Phys­i­cal

fit­ness. Your horse prob­a­bly isn’t get­ting as much ex­er­cise as he did when tem­per­a­tures were more tem­per­ate, so he may be los­ing some of his phys­i­cal fit­ness. The fix: Per­form ground work, in­clud­ing longe­ing, to keep him in shape. When you do ride, warm up slowly. Stay alert for any signs of fa­tigue, such as heavy breath­ing, sweat­ing, and stum­bling. 2Dan­der.

Dust and dead skin cells tend to ac­cu­mu­late against your horse’s skin un­der his dense win­ter coat. The fix: Spend time deep-grooming your horse to re­move any buildup so you don’t risk dan­der ir­ri­ta­tion un­der tack. Use a curry and lots of el­bow grease to deeply clean and loosen ma­te­rial close to the skin sur­face. A vac­uum works best for re­mov­ing dirt, hair, and de­bris, but vig­or­ous brush­ing with a fairly stiff bris­tle brush will get the job done, too. Clip­ping his belly — or do­ing a trace clip of the belly and half­way up the chest wall — will make these ar­eas eas­ier to keep clean. (If you clip, blan­ket your horse so he’ll be in­su­lated from the cold.) 3Joint stiff­ness. Cold weather quickly stiff­ens ar­eas of arthri­tis and/or old in­juries. The fix: A brisk rub with a warm­ing lin­i­ment, plus stretch­ing and flex­ing by hand, will help your horse loosen up. Wear heavy-rub­ber house­clean­ing gloves to pro­tect your hands from the chem­i­cals and the cold. Wrap­ping your horse’s legs overnight will also help keep his joints more flex­i­ble.

4Frozen

ground. Frozen ground cre­ates concussion on your horse’s feet and joints. It’s like work­ing him on con­crete. And frozen, un­even ground can eas­ily bruise the bot­tom of his foot, and may even cut his frog. The fix: Con­sider pro­tec­tion in the form of hoof boots for bare­foot horses, or pads un­der shoes. Many hoof-boot mod­els can also be worn over shoes. 5

Icy ground. Ice is a par­tic­u­larly treach­er­ous sit­u­a­tion, as your horse can slip and fall, risk­ing se­ri­ous in­jury.

The fix: A bare­foot horse will have bet­ter grip on ice than a horse in shoes. But even the bare­foot horse will be safer on ice with boots. Ap­ply­ing bo­rium or studs in your horse’s shoes pro­vide much bet­ter trac­tion, but at the price of more strain on the joints, lig­a­ments, and ten­dons. Boots over shoes is an­other op­tion. — Eleanor M. Kel­lon, VMD (www.drkel­lon.com), a staff ve­teri­nar­ian for Uck­ele Health and Nu­tri­tion, Inc., and the owner of Equine Nu­tri­tional So­lu­tions. She’s the au­thor of Horse Jour­nal Guide to Equine Sup­ple­ments and Nu­traceu­ti­cals.

A roundup of sea­sonal tips, check­lists, and guides — on health care, hoof care, haul­ing, nu­tri­tion, blan­ket­ing, and man­age­ment — to help you keep your horse healthy and safe all win­ter long.

There’s no rea­son why you can’t en­joy trail rid­ing this win­ter, but be con­sid­er­ate of your horse’s fit­ness level, and be care­ful of the ground con­di­tions.

The warmth that leg wraps pro­vide be­fore and dur­ing a ride can ease joint stiff­ness.

BOB LANGRISH PHOTO Studs in shoes pro­vide trac­tion on icy sur­faces, but they also in­crease leg strain.

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