Water is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of all organ systems. Well-hydrated cells fight disease better and hydration prevents impaction colic, one of winter’s most common ailments. Keep water from freezing with tank heaters. Consider giving tepid water to those with a history of winter colic, studies show that horses will consume more water if it is warmed slightly. This is also a good tip for the older horse, many may have sensitive teeth and will decrease their consumption of ice cold water.
Do not neglect parasite control in winter. Yes, the enviromental temperature may be cold enough in winter to destroy parasite eggs in soil and bedding however, parasites can over winter inside your horse by encasting in the large bowel.
Not all horses need blankets. Young, healthy horses with shelter (large trees or a two sided shed) and a natural winter hair coat are probably okay uncovered. These horses conserve energy better and gain faster when blanketed. Sick horses may suffer less stress if they are blanketed. Body clipped horses should be blanketed. Blanket any horse that is persistently shivering, even if it is wet. Once the weather improves and the horse stops shivering the blanket can be removed.
Our wet fall weather has softened the soles of many horses’ feet. When the ground freezes they may bruise these soft feet on the ice, suffering severe foot pain. A typical horse with this condition will walk tenderly, as if “walking on eggs”. Thin soled horses (especially thoroughbreds) and horses with a history of laminents (founder) are particulary prone to this problem. The solution is to apply “bubble” snow pads and shoes before the freeze sets in.