Winterizing your horse
Winter can be a great time to give a barrel horse a
vacation from the stress and pressures of competition.
Many riders believe that a month of rest restores a lot
of the desire and edge that a horse can lose during a
busy season of barrel racing. Like people, horses
can get tired and burned-out and sometimes just need
some time off to rejuvenate themselves. But while a
horse is technically “resting” he still needs exercise.
The goal is to let them “let down”
a little, but not get completely out of shape.
Light exercise and letting them play outside daily is
the rule. This is also a great time if he is sore. Let
him rest and get over it. Remember, even though they are
resting, they need physical activity to stay healthy.
Never, ever, just leave a horse in a stall to rest.
Make sure he gets out every day, and keep in mind that
daily grooming is still necessary.
Priefert walkers are wonderful for the winter
months to help keep your horse in shape and
the horses seem to enjoy it!
Martha uses her
Oster Grooming products
to help keep Harvey looking his best.
Oster has just released a hot new Pink Grooming set!
According to an article in the QUARTER HORSE JOURNAL,
contrary to popular belief, feeding grain will not
appreciably increase a horse’s body warmth, but feeding
increased roughage will. The heat of digestion (in
terms of calories) is greater and lasts longer from hay
than from concentrates. The article also states
that it is most beneficial to feed a horse several hours
in advance of a winter storm rather than during it. It
seems that immediately after a large meal, blood is
concentrated around and in the digestive tract, rather
than in the muscles where it is needed for warmth. The
same article suggests increasing the horse’s ration 10
percent for every ten degrees below freezing.
According to this article, horse that are fed less than
is necessary to combat cold and wind will burn fat and
muscle by shivering to keep warm, and will lose weight.
Good blankets and hoods are expensive, so take care of them! Blankets must be cleaned at least twice during the winter by washing in cold water with a mild soap. Repair little rips and tears immediately, before they become big ones. Make sure the blanket fits the horse. Too small blankets can cause rub marks and sore spots on the withers, shoulder, chest and hips. Too large blankets can slip and twist possible causing injury if a horse becomes entangled in them. Watch for overheating. A sudden warm afternoon can result in a sick horse if he is allowed to keep on the same blanket he wore during the night. What is appropriate for a low, nighttime barn temperature might be too much for a sunny paddock or run. Visit
Rambo Quarter Horse for all your blanket needs.
Winter Horse Care
can mean hardship for the horse and an inconvenience for
the owner, but proper year-round care will help a horse
be in the best condition to face winter’s stresses.
It will also minimize winter health scares. Horses should
dewormed every sixty days no matter what the
season. Vaccinations for influenza and
rhinopneumonitis should be given as well before the
cold, wet weather of the fall and repeated every 90 days
for horses constantly exposed to situations associated
with these respiratory infections. Winter-specific
stresses include cold, wet, wind, lack of exercise, and
owner disinterest. As long as the weather is sunny and
calm, horses can withstand temperatures well below
freezing. Their winter coats are designed to trap
body heat next to the horse’s skin. When it really
cold, pilo-erector muscles make the hair stand up, which
increases its insulating capabilities. But wind
separates the hairs, breaks the heat seal, and robs the
body of warmth. Snow, sleet, and rain are hard on
horses. A wet horse loses body heat faster than a
dry one. In addition, wet hair tends to get
plastered closer to the horse’s body, so the air
insulation does not work. Stalled horses are often
turned out less often in winter, which results in
over-exuberant running and kicking when they do get out.
This, coupled with the slippery winter footing, means an
increase in pulled muscle/tendons-slipping type
injuries. And on those cold winter mornings, it is
tempting to roll back over in bed and get another hour
of sleep, rather than braving the elements to feed the
animals. Getting the warmth-giving feed is
essential to the horse. It's also a great time to work
on the horses legs. I love to wrap, poultice or ice my
horses legs in the winter months when I'm not so busy.
HOW TO CORRECTLY WRAP
YOUR HORSES LEGS
1) First apply a good brace to the
area you will be wrapping. The
brace is used to cool and tighten
tendons. Here Pam Randall is
using Cool Pack Green Gel as a brace.
Next, apply thick leg quilts.
I use a type called “no bow” as
it is less likely to cause problems
in case of an improper wrap. Start
on the inside of the leg and wrap
to the outside; “Tendons in.”
Notice that the wraps have
easy-to-use Velcro strips.
Wrap the leg with
standing bandages. Start the first part of
the wrap by tucking the edge just inside the under wrapping. This
will hold it securely in place. Begin the outer wrap in the middle
of the leg. Wrap in a downward direction overlapping each layer ¼ to
½ the width of the wrap. Then begin wrapping back up the leg. Keep
your wrap snug, but don’t get it too tight or it will interfere with
the circulation and cause pressure points.
Wrap from the knee to just below the ankle. In our
Winning Ways we will be talking a lot more about
wrapping legs, because this is such an important
subject. Properly done, leg wrapping can do a great deal
of good, but incorrect wrapping can hinder a horse more
than it helps. In a conditioning exercise program, I
feel that there is a time to train your horse and a time
for just riding. I know a trail ride is good, but you
don’t see someone getting ready to compete in the
Olympics by walking through the woods. Trail riding is
for the mind. It’s good and has it's place, but it
doesn’t replace the training and conditioning aspect of
a program. Any time I take a horse out of a stall I walk
take out any soreness in his body
take out any swelling in his legs
Remember it's a wonderful time to work on our body.
Let's get in shape so we can ride to WIN! Also, the
winter months are a great time to start planning for the
next season. Try getting a day timer or planner to help
you remember important dates and to help keep you
Make sure your horse drinks enough water in winter.
Horses normally drink from eight to twelve gallons of
water a day. Even though they are usually at the
low end of that figure in winter months, they still have
to have at least eight gallons a day.Sometimes horses
will not drink extremely cold water. If so, try
offering lukewarm water in mid-morning (warmest part of
the day). Most horses show little interest in
water early in the morning or late in the evening.
Remember a horse loves clean water. Sometimes try a
little kool aid in their water to see if they like the
Hairy or Not?
When the first chilly nights begin each fall, horse
owners will notice a thickening or a bushy look to the
hair coat. This is the beginning of the winter hair
coat that the horse grows to protect him from the cold
weather. Although they want their horse to be warm and
comfortable, many barrel racers prefer to keep their
horses as slick as possible throughout the winter, for a
variety of reasons:
1) It is easier to cool out a horse with
shorter hair. Longer haired horses often sweat more
under their hair when they are worked and can take about
three times as long to get cooled (since the hair holds
the body heat in) and dry (because the wet, sweaty hair
is down close to the skin, away from the outside of the
Sometimes long hair mats under a saddle or cinch,
causing a horse to become sore.
If you’re planning to go to any winter events, a
slick-haired horse just looks nicer.
Obviously, the key to keeping a horse slick and shiny
during the winter is to keep him warm. Ideally, the
temperature inside his stall should be kept at around 50
to 60 degrees. You can use a good set of blankets and hoods to keep
your horse as warm as possible. In addition, most show
horse people (whose horses have to stay slick) suggest
keeping a horse under lights. These horse show people
figured out years ago that horses are
photosensitive-responsive to light and that the length
of day light governs not only their hair coats, but also
will cause mares to start ovulating. To make the light
work for you, it is recommended that you have a timer to
insure that stall lights are turned on for a set amount
of time everyday (recommended is from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Remember, though, if you take away the horses natural
protection by not letting him grow hair, you will have
to help him keep warm. Heat lamps are good for heating
stalls, and putting up plastic on the outside of the
stalls to help keep the warmth in and cold drafts out is
also a good idea. Exercise is also important and an
essential part of keeping your horse looking good in the
winter, but it is very important that you keep the horse
from getting cold. Make sure your horse doesn’t get
chilled during or after a workout. When you’re through
exercising him, put a light blanket on him until he’s
cooled down. When he is cool, get his regular blanket
back on him as soon as possible. This is especially
important if you work him hard enough to get him sweaty.
Don’t wait until he’s completely dry and cooled off to
start covering him up. You have to keep him comfortable
while he’s drying to avoid letting him get chilled. Remember, if he gets cold, he can get sick.
Professional Grooming Products
NOW Available in Pink!
During the winter, grooming is especially important. He
has to be brushed to keep a good hair-coat and you brush
him in the winter like you do the summer except you have
to work harder. Keep a thermometer outside your stall
and also in your horse trailer. Remember a horse that is
too warm will get a cold quicker than if he is
Be extremely careful in the winter, anything that can
start fires are dangerous. We use a lot of common sense
and never take any chances.