October 31, 2023
In winter, we’re torn between a cosy night in and braving the cold for our paddock-bound four-legged friends.
One common question is, “should you turn a horse out in winter?” The short answer is yes, but with a few caveats. There are some considerations like; minimum temperatures, shelter, paddock sizes, and what’s on the menu for your horse.
Let’s jump into winter horse care.
While you may be shivering in your wellies, contemplating a hot flask of tea, your horse will be quite happy and warm. Their fur coats mean horses are naturally less sensitive to the frosty conditions than us humans.
Horses tend to lose most of their heat through their skin, breath, and when in contact with colder surfaces. Ever touched a metal fence on a frosty morning? – BRRR! It’s the same for your horse, so be mindful of the materials in your paddock during winter.
The key temperature is the “lower critical temperature” which is the point most horses start to feel the cold and require additional help to stay warm. The LCT is normally around 0 to 5 degrees depending on coat length, age and body condition.
How to Keep a Horse Warm Outside
Below this lower critical temperature, horses use more energy just to keep warm.
Rugs and blankets provide extra insulation against the cold. Choose one that’s breathable to avoid trapping moisture which could lead to skin issues.
Horses need to eat more over winter, so provide extra hay. Plus, as hay is slow-burning, it’ll keep your horse warmer for longer. This is especially important for older horses or those who lose weight over winter.
Horses also benefit from having a solid, dry shelter in the paddock to escape bad weather and provide protection against wind, rain, and snow. Three-sided structures are most effective for blocking wind and the floor should be elevated to prevent flooding.
The general guideline suggests a minimum of one to two acres per horse to allow for adequate movement. This will vary depending on the horse’s needs and availability of additional riding or lunging exercise.
Winter conditions often make parts of the paddock unusable due to mud, ice, or snow accumulation. Therefore, a larger paddock over the winter months is advisable to compensate for areas that become unusable.
Pay attention to your horse’s hooves, as wet and muddy conditions could lead to problems like thrush or foot rot. Regular checks and prompt treatment to keep your horse happy and healthy outside are essential.
When it comes to paddock fencing, safety and durability are key. Wooden fences are often recommended as they are sturdy and less affected by temperature changes. If you’re using wire mesh fencing, it should be checked regularly for signs of damage that will be a risk to your horse.
Should any part of a wooden fence become damaged, it’s far easier and less costly to repair or replace individual boards rather than entire sections.
With limited opportunities for exercise and social interaction, boredom can quickly set in. To combat this, consider adding some toys to the paddock, or perhaps a companion animal if space and resources allow.
Activities like hiding treats provide great mental stimulation when you’re not there. Scavenger hunts can make a significant difference in your horse’s mental well-being during the colder months as it’ll encourage them to explore and keep them engaged.
Make sure your horses have the best shelter as we head into winter by coming to Norton’s Fencing. We have a wide range of paddock fencing available as well as expert design and planning services too.
Get in touch to discuss your requirements today.