I have conjured up the most controversial “having a horse in winter” questions and have answered them while providing reasoning! Make sure to comment if you agree, or disagree and why! I would love to hear your thoughts xo
1.) Do you let your horses out to play in the snow?
Even though I believe it is best to always have them in and safe at night, I ALWAYS let them out during the day…, especially in the SNOW! My herd LOVES to play in the snow. (Of course, I provide alfalfa and other hays to them while they are out to help keep them warm) .
2.) Do you keep your horses in stalls?
Stalls are a heated discussion among the equine world.
It is important to understand that a horse is not meant to go for long periods of time without eating. A horse is DESIGNED to eat all of the time in small amounts. Additionally, a horse is meant to be consistently moving at a steady…slow pace, only to exert itself at a time of fleeing.
I personally bring my horses in at night and let them out in the morning…especially in the winter (as the weather is very unpredictable where I live). In their stalls, they always have water and hay. They are fed their grain twice a day. Certain days when I let my herd out in the morning, they actually want to come back into their stalls once they discover the weather outdoors. I believe it is important to listen to your horses, as they will tell you the right thing to do.
3.) Do you ride in the snow?
I will occasionally take Daenerys on a stroll bareback with her blanket in the snow. I do not believe it is worth the risk on ice to ask her, or any member of my herd, to exert themselves on ice-covered footing. If I wouldn’t want to exert myself on ice or snow, I am certain my horses do not either.
4.) How to correct a “fresh” horse in winter?
Too often horse owners are frustrated with how “fresh” their horses are. Why?
When a horse is fresh, it is the most mesmerizing! They are so filled with life. Their hearts are racing, their senses are heightened, their muscles are stimulated. In my opinion, the soul of the horse is revealed. Make sure to allow your horse time to simply be a horse, especially in the winter months!
5.) To blanket or not to blanket?
I have noticed this is one of the more heated debates in the equestrian world.
My personal perspective on blankets is to listen to your horse. Each horse is an individual. Are they a gelding? Stallion? Mare? Filly? Colt? What stage in life are they? Are there any health factors? What is their breed (where does this breed originate/what can it sustain)? What is their coat like?
Whatever your decision is, be sure that you stick with it. I believe it is severely unfair to blanket a horse, which the horse will then potentially drop parts of his/her coat, to only then remove the blanket from the horse weeks into the winter.
6.) What to do with your horses during the winter?
I don’t see the winter as something that holds me back from my horses, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Yes, the snow, ice, wind, and frost of winter may put a hold on riding, however, it gives the HUGE opportunity to substitute additional time spent with them.
For those who are new to liberty work, this is a fine time to start with the groundwork.
Many equestrians send their horses away during the winter to better advance their horse’s skills. For this reason, I would not consider myself an equestrian, rather a member of the herd. I could never send my horse away and entrust them in the hands of another human. I am their mother. I am their caregiver.
7.) What do you feed a horse during the winter?
My herd’s feeding schedule remains the same all year round, except for a few minor changes. Just like in the summer where you are adding electrolytes for the nutrients lost from sweat, you must make provisions for the extreme cold of winter. In the winter, my herd gets additional hay, as they NEED hay to keep themselves warm and to keep their weight up. Hay is essentially like adding wood to a fire. They need it to stay warm. I give my horses alfalfa from bales, but I also will give them alfalfa cubes soaked in water to encourage additional water intake. In addition, I add new pink Himalayan salt licks to encourage the intake of water.
8.) How to keep a horse hydrated during winter?
This was primarily answered in #7, but I will most definitely reiterate, as it is very important (: If I had to say two important things to keep in mind during the winter regarding horses, it is WATER AND HAY.
I give my horses alfalfa from bales, but I also will give them alfalfa cubes soaked in water to encourage additional water intake. In addition, I add new pink Himalayan salt licks to encourage the intake of water.
9.) The hay situation?
I primarily answered this in #7. and #8, but I believe it is important to answer again, as it is a commonly debated answer. In the winter, my herd gets additional hay, as they NEED hay to keep themselves warm and to keep their weight up. Hay is essentially like adding wood to a fire. In the winter we purchase bales of alfalfa and orchard grass AND round bales. We do this simply to keep our horses happy, warm and well fed.
10.) The bit situation?
If you have been subscribed to my blog, you would know that I most definitely do not believe bits are necessary, nor would I ever use them on any member of my herd. However, I do believe if you are someone who does use a bit to NEVER PUT IT IN YOUR HORSE’S MOUTH WHEN IT IS STILL COLD AND FROZEN FROM THE TACK ROOM. Run it under warm water.