“Preparing your horse for winter should begin before the first chilling winds hit,” notes Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “In late summer, horses living in temperate climates should be allowed to slightly increase body weight so that the extra flesh and fat will provide additional insulation and heat reserve for the winter.”
During the winter, feed and hay ration should be adjusted to give your horse more energy for heat and warmth against the lower temperatures, explains Mays. Your horse may need extra forage and feed to develop more flesh and fat so that it does not shiver as easily because shivering burns fat and muscle tissue.
“Quality forage should be fed all year and especially during the winter months,” says Mays. “The best food heat source for your horse is extra hay because as your horse digests hay heat is produced internally by bacterial fermentation. This warms your horse from the inside. Higher protein legume hays provide more energy and nutrients and make a good choice for winter feeding.”
Forage and water complement your horse’s diet. Without water, your horse’s body will not function properly, notes Mays. As temperatures fall, horses tend to reduce their water intake and reduced water intake combined with increased forage intake may lead to a greater likelihood of impaction and colic. You may want to consider providing warmed water during the winter months since horses tend to increase water intake when there is access to 45-65 F degree water. Also, providing loose salt may encourage your horse to drink more.