Caring for your horse in the winter

Quick facts

  • Horses acclimated to cold temperatures often prefer and are better off outdoors.
  • The Minnesota Pet and Companion Animal Welfare Act gives several minimal care standards for food, water, shelter, space, cleanliness, exercise and hoof care. Some of these standards become more important in the winter.
  • Keep in mind that a horse requiring special care during summer months will need that care continued throughout the winter months.
  • To ease the transition into winter, deworm your horses based on fecal analysis and make sure they are in good body condition.

Winterizing your horse

  • Provide warm water (45 to 65 F).
  • Feed additional hay during extreme cold.
  • Make sure there is access to shelter.
  • Perform regular hoof care.
  • Assess your horse’s body condition regularly.
  • Evaluate your facility’s stability and ventilation.

Your horse needs more water in the winter

The goal should always be to maximize the amount your horse drinks to help prevent dehydration and colic. Most 1,000-pound adult horses need at least 10 to 12 gallons of water daily.

During the summer months, lush pastures contain 60 to 80 percent moisture and can contribute to your horse’s water requirement. In contrast, dried winter feedstuffs such as grain and hay contain less than 15 percent moisture. Thus, your horse will require more water in the winter.

If your horse doesn’t drink enough water during cold weather they may eat less and be more prone to impaction colic. Even if you offer quality feed, horses will consume less if not drinking enough water. If horses eat less feed, they might not have enough energy to tolerate the cold.

Water intake maintains a horse’s fecal moisture level. If fecal material becomes too dry, intestinal blockage or impaction may occur. A horse won’t develop an impaction in one day, but can over several days to several weeks of poor water intake.

Getting your horse enough water in the winter

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Adjust your horse's feed in the winter

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Providing shelter for your horse

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Blanketing

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Exercise

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Hoof care

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Winter paddock and facilities upkeep

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Marcia Hathaway, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Krishona Martinson, Extension equine specialist; Chuck Clanton,  College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Carey Williams, Rutgers University

Reviewed in 2018

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