More Cold Weather Tips for Horse Owners

Hay will keep your horse warmer than grain because the hay gets digested in the hindgut where it produces a lot of heat. A horse needs more calories in cold weather just to keep warm. Make sure that your horses’ get those calories from fiber instead of grain. Unlike hay, consumption of grain does not produce large amounts of body heat during digestion. Grain functions to keep horses warm by providing energy for muscle contraction that can be used to help the animal shiver. Keep your horses warm with hay and they will not be shivering in the cold.

High-quality hay is vital to your horses’ winter diet. They need dry fresh hay available at all times. The most expensive hay you will ever purchase is the hay your horses won’t eat. Horses know good hay from great hay and they won’t eat bad hay unless they are starving. Older horses, who cannot chew hay well, can get their calories from senior feeds that contain beet pulp. Beet pulp is a highly underrated source of inexpensive fiber for your horse. Alfalfa cubes are another great source of fiber especially if your hay is not the best.

Fiber is digested in the hind gut where the heat produced from digestion helps to keep the horses warm. “When a horse digests long-stem fiber (hay), microbial fermentation occurs and heat is created,” says Brian Nielsen, Ph.D., professor and researcher in equine exercise physiology and nutrition at Michigan State University. “This has a benefit to the horse in times of cold weather because fiber is digested slowly, and heat is sustained for quite a long time.” Although Nielsen says that it’s difficult to pinpoint a precise amount to feed, an extra flake of hay on a cold day is a good rule of thumb.

Cherokee Feed & Seed has all kinds of hay in both round bales and square bales to keep your horses warm. Our hay is high quality horse hay.

Horses need hay and water to keep from freezing. An adult horse in a cool, comfortable environment requires a minimum of 7-10 gallons of fresh, clean water per day. Plan ahead with outside water troughs and make sure you can get them filled. If you wait too long, the hoses you use to fill them might be frozen. Consider bringing a hose or two into a warm tack room or even your home.  Heated water troughs and buckets will keep water from freezing but you still need to get them filled. If you do not have water heaters, break the ice in a large circle but leave the rest of the surface frozen. This frozen area will act as an insulator and help keep the water from freezing again. Check to make sure the circle has not frozen and keep breaking the ice so your horses always have access to fresh water. Another way to get water to your horses is by filling a muck bucket and using your tractor or pick up truck to transport it to the pasture or to the trough to refill it.

Visit our Farm Supplies page to see all the products Cherokee Feed & Seed carries to help you manage your farm.

Read about more “Cold Weather Tips For Horses” on our website.

If the ground is so frozen that it is dangerous or difficult for you to walk on, you might want to consider keeping your horses inside. Horses outside should have access to shelter from the wind and wetness along with hay and unfrozen water. Do they need a blanket too?

Not all horses need blankets and some must have blankets. Horses naturally develop a long coat for the winter. Sometimes we interrupt the natural process of growing a long coat by keeping lights on in the barn or clipping horses that are showing. If they don’t have the coat they need to stay warm then a blanket is a necessity. Just don’t forget to check under the blankets often for weight loss, rain rot or sweating. Blankets can hide injuries as well so check for kick marks on the blankets and check under for signs of injury. You would hate to miss an injury that should be treated immediately. Talk with your vet about your situation and horse and make the right decision on blankets. Also, buy different weights of blankets rather than doubling and tripling up on them. The extra weight from extra blankets knocks down the horse’s coat and eliminates the insulating layer of air that is trapped between the hair.
We carry senior feeds from Purina, Triple Crown, Nutrena, Legends, Seminole and Seminole Wellness. Our staff attends ongoing training about horse feeds and they can help you choose the best feed for your situation. Give them a call today.

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