PET TALK: Does your horse need extra care this winter?

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Texas may have mild winters, but that doesn’t mean temperatures can’t drop below freezing. On these cold days, how can horses stay warm?

In general, horses’ coats are enough to keep them warm in the winter, even in snowy weather, said Leslie Easterwood, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. But for owners who clip their horse’s coat short during the winter, it is necessary to provide your horse with ways to stay warm.

One way to help your horse stay warm is by providing shelter. A closed-in barn is nice, but not required, Easterwood said. Generally, as long as the horse has some way of escaping the weather, their coats should be adequate in maintaining body heat.

“Horses generally grow enough hair to stay warm,” Easterwood said. “The worst weather for them is when conditions are wet and windy. If they have a shelter to avoid the wind and rain, then they will be more comfortable.”

Another way to keep your horse warm is to provide a horse blanket. Blanketing is not a necessity for most horses in Texas, but blanketing is essential for horses with clipped coats. However, as the temperatures warm up throughout the day, the blanket will need to be changed to prevent sweating. A horse that sweats under their blanket may fall ill.

If keeping warm requires more calories, should you feed your horse a more calorie-dense diet in the winter?

It depends on the horse’s activity, according to Easterwood. Most horses’ normal diets are sufficient through the winter, but if you are regularly exercising your horse or the horse is underweight, you may consider increasing their caloric intake.

“Usually owners ride less in the winter, which could allow for energy to be diverted to keeping warm,” Easterwood said. “But if owners continue to ride during the winter, it could be necessary to provide more roughage for the horses.”

The winter months in Texas may not be as cold as other places, but horses with clipped coats may still find the weather to be too cold to bear. If you’re going to clip your horse’s coat during the winter, be sure to provide them with ways to stay warm.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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