By Liv Gude of Professional Equine Grooms, special contributor to Heels Down Magazine
The older horse and winter – how to make this winter his best yet.
It’s all about the comfort and health of the older horse – and winter has it’s own set of challenges. A big drop in weight. Some weight loss in winter might be OK – check with your vet. A large weight loss is reason for your vet to do some investigations.
Sore hooves. Hard ground hurts, bruises can be an issue in the winter as the ground freezes. Also know that the pasture horse faces sugar spikes in the grass as temps drop, which can lead to laminitis.
Skin issues. Blankets and infrequent grooming can lead to rubs, sores, and skin infections.
Dehydration. Feel the senior horse’s gums every day to be sure they are slippery. This is the best indication of hydration. And this goes for non-senior horses, too! Dehydration in winter can lead to colic.
A smelly stall. If the weather keeps the older horse inside, the ammonia created by urine can create damage to his respiratory system. And also it just plain stinks.
Tips for keeping the senior horse pampered:
Keep up some level of exercise. Motion is lotion and will keep stiffness at bay. It’s also a nice way to test out all of your winter coats.
Use blankets. Some senior guys have trouble staying warm, why let them shiver and lose weight? Just use the dang blanket.
Clip. What? Yes. If the fuzzy senior horse lives in a warmer climate, he may be too hot.
Get some bloodwork done. Your Vet can do a general blood panel to check for overall health, as well as check for metabolic issues. The results can shed light on the best possible diet and pasture schedule for the older dudes.
Be vigilant about hoof care! Check daily for a digital pulse and heat in the hoof.
Feed extra forage – HAY! Hot water bran mashes warm up a horse for about the time it takes for him to swallow. Hay spends hours upon hours fermenting in the gut – producing energy and warmth. Toss a few extra flakes.
Daily grooming. Good for everyone. Also a reminder to wear layers and you might just work up a sweat grooming the fuzzy guys.
And mostly – Think about all of the good things that senior horses have done for us over the years, time to pay it back with a good diet, fluffy clean bedding, and only the best in blankets.