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Take Care of the Horse in the Cold

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It is important to make sure that the horse has what it needs when it is cold. Age, health, keep and coat have an effect on how much cold a horse thrives in.

A horse keeper must assess what each individual horse needs in cold weather. In any case, the horses must have access to shelter if the weather is bad.

How do you see that the horse is freezing?

The first sign is that it bristles with hairs. When the fur stands out from the body, it traps more air, which forms an insulating layer against the skin. The next sign is that the horse is trembling. Then it’s time to do something – use the cover, take it indoors or provide better shelter.

Rain, wet snow and wind are the worst

It is not just the temperature that determines how cold it is. Humidity and wind have a lot to say for effective cooling. Damp snow drifts in strong winds just below 0 degrees can seem much more cooling than minus 10 in calm and dry weather. It is therefore difficult to set an exact limit for when the horses can be outside.

In most cases, horses feel better outdoors than indoors. The exception must be when it is raining and blowing strongly, but then it may be enough for the horses to seek shelter from the weather. A rainproof cover may also be relevant. In any case, the air quality is much better outside than inside, and the horses get to move together with fellow species and exercise natural behaviour.

Acclimatization is important

Horses that have to go outside all or most of the day in cold weather must be used to this. A horse with a good winter coat naturally tolerates the cold better than a clipped horse with a short coat.

If the horse is to go outside in the cold, it is also important that it is in normal condition and receives good feed. The fat layer under the skin also protects against the cold. Access to plenty of good feed will help the horse to cover increased combustion to stay warm in cold weather.

Need the tire?

Many people are concerned about using the tire. It is not certain that the cover is necessary or in the best interest of the horse, but it depends on the coat, the weather and adaptation to the cold. A short-clipped horse in damp and windy weather may certainly need the tyre. For a horse with dense winter fur, the cover can be rather uncomfortable and in any case unnecessary.

Water is especially important in the cold

Many people are concerned about giving the horse enough water in hot weather. However, this can be at least as demanding in the cold. If the horse goes outside for more than a few hours at a time, access to water must be ensured. It can of course be a challenge in cold weather, but there are solutions for frost-free water access. The horses tend to drink less than they need if the water is icy cold and prefer lukewarm water. Snow cannot replace drinking water for horses. Low water intake is bad for digestion and can lead to constipation and colic.

Horses outside must have a dry and draft-free litter box

If the horse is to be outside around the clock, the law requires access to a living area. The living room can be a simple reading shed, but it must have at least three solid walls and a roof and a dry and draft-free sleeping area where all the horses can lie down at the same time. Water must not be able to flow in from the outside, and the fourth wall must be able to be closed in bad weather. There you can e.g. use hanging plastic strips.

It is important that the reading shelter is placed so that the horses will use it, preferably in a high place in the terrain where they have a view. It must also be designed in such a way that all the horses have access without a dominant horse being able to keep the others out. Therefore, one long wall should either be open (possibly with plastic strips) or have an opening at each end.

How warm should it be in the stable?

Indoors, the horses do well in temperatures below 0. It is much more important to maintain good ventilation than to keep the temperature up. But, as a rule, it is good to keep the temperature above 0 degrees to prevent the water from freezing.

Training in severe cold

Some people wonder how cold it can be before they can stop exercising the horse. Horses have a large comfort zone for temperature and do well in both high and low temperatures, provided they get used to it and have reasonable access to feed and water. Trotting horses in races are probably the horses that are exposed to the greatest stress during the winter months. The meeting veterinarian has the authority to stop the races if the weather becomes too cold. However, this rarely happens, so for the vast majority of horses it is OK to work as long as the rider or driver perseveres!

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