To view PDF files, you must have a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader which is available as a free download:
Manitoba's winters can be notoriously harsh and without proper care and management may be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of your horse.
As a horse owner, the starting point for your horse management in the winter should be ensuring that they enter the winter months healthy and well acclimated to the cold weather with a heavy winter coat and adequate fat cover.
This means that your horses should be receiving adequate feed and water, be dewormed in the fall or as advised by your veterinarian and have their teeth examined and floated, if applicable, before winter. This also applies to other animals such as donkeys, mules, llamas and alpacas.
The average adult horse requires 1.5 to 2 per cent of its bodyweight in feed per day to maintain its bodyweight. For example, a 1,000 lb horse requires between 15 to 20 lb of hay per day to meet its daily needs, When temperatures drop below -10 degrees Celcius, the amount of feed required to meet maintenance needs increases and the metabolic rate may increase by up to 50 per cent or more as the body burns more energy to maintain normal body temperatures and organ function. A good rule of thumb is to provide a horse with feed (hay) increase of 50 per cent or more (i.e., 3 per cent or more of its bodyweight) in winter conditions.
Roughage (hay) is very important in a horse's diet. While supplemental concentrates (ex: grain, oil) may be included in the overall feed regimen for horses in winter; daily access to good quality, free-choice hay is of utmost importance. Feeding hay free-choice makes it easier for the horse to consume what it needs to maintain its body temperature, body condition, proper gut function and to stay healthy. A horse's body condition should be routinely assessed and the feeding regimen adjusted accordingly.
Feed testing of hay stores prior to winter is also good practice. This will help to highlight the level of feed supplementation required, if any. Additionally, ensure that horses have free access to a trace mineral salt block.
Access to clean, fresh, "warm" water (5 to 15 degrees Celcius) is very crucial to the overall care of horses in winter. A mature horse needs between 10 to 12 gallons of water per day. If the water is ice cold or frozen, consumption will decrease leading to a decrease in feed consumption, loss of condition, and an inability to maintain its normal body temperature. If water if not palatable or is inadequate, horses will become dehydrated and may suffer from impaction colic.
According to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Horses, snow alone will not meet the hydration needs of horses and is not acceptable as a sole source of water for equines. Heated water troughs should be provided and should be checked and cleaned daily to ensure that clean and palatable water is always available.
Horses must have access to shelter from adverse weather conditions, including cold winds, rain and snow. Shelter may either be natural shelterbelts or man-made.
Adequate amounts of dry bedding should be provided.
Additional insulation may be obtained by using blankets especially for young, old, ill, thin or compromised animals. When blankets are used, they should be removed at least weekly to inspect the horse's condition.
If owners have question or concerns about the condition of their animals and winter requirements, they should consult their veterinarian. If Manitobans are concerned about the welfare of an animal, they are encouraged to contact the Animal Care Line at 204-954-8000, toll free at 1-888-945-8001 or email@example.com.