So. It's not even Thanksgiving and already here in East Texas we've had a little ice, a few hard freezes as well as the earliest freeze in 15 years. Plus the old-timers and the Farmer's Almanac are saying the winter this year is going to be a doozy.
In East Texas, we do not have the FEET of snow that they have further north. (We live below the snow belt for a reason!) However when it gets cold, it gets cold and wet and miserable for humans and animals alike!
What kind of things do we do to help insure that our horses stay healthy in the cold? Remember there are a lot of right ways to do things. These are just some of the things that work for us:
1) We change their feed up a little. Except for the rye we planted in the fall, the grass has all gone dormant and is brown and dry. So it's time to start putting out hay. We also start adding alfalfa pellets to their feed. Alfalfa is a hot feed so it starts warming them up from the inside out. We still watch their weight, especially Cowboy's, but generally horses use more calories staying warm in the winter, so that offsets the extra caloric intake from the alfalfa.
2)When they are out in the pastures, we make sure that there is enough hay for them to munch on all night. That helps keep them warm too. Just make sure that whatever hay you use is clean, fresh and mold free. They usually won't eat moldy, dirty hay unless they get desperate, but if they do it can make them sick...real sick.
3) Feet. It is even more important to keep their feet as clean and dry as possible. Imagine having to walk on dirty ice and having that build up in the crevices of your feet...not good. Plus we have to watch out for thrush. Thrush is a predominately bacterial infection of the frog of a horse's hoof. If not caught in a timely manner, it can become not only horribly stinky. but incredibly painful as well. It tends to show up when their feet stay wet for prolonged periods of time...like Winter and Spring. It sounds kinda yucky, but cleaning those hooves and paying attention to the way they smell is really important this time of year.
4) Water, water, water. Just because it's not a gazillion degrees outside, doesn't mean we don't have to pay attention to how much water they are drinking. Warm it up if you have to...We do!
Oh and when fishing that ice out of their water troughs, I really like using one of those pooper scooper things you can get for cat boxes. Can get the smaller chunks that break off and still keep your hands dry.
5) Shelter. We make sure they have something to break the wind and keep ice off their backs. When they are out in the pastures and the temp is below freezing or close to it, 2 of our horses get blanketed, because their coats are not thick enough yet this year: Flame because of skin allergies and Scooter because she's not quite there yet.
6) Did I mention water?
Most of the horses' coats have come in as thick as I have ever seen them. Maybe the old-timers and the Farmers' Almanac are right. Brrrrr.