By Heather Zorn P.A.S.
With winter clinging to the bitter end and spring just around the corner, the weather brings challenges to horses and their caretakers alike. In New Mexico, we can have a seventy degree day, followed by rain and a cooling trend and rain the very next day. The southern part of the U.S. has experienced unusually cold winters, and the eastern seaboard has been pounded by a dreadful amount of snow. What does this mean for the way we care for our horses?
It means we put on layers of extra clothing (and shed them when the sun comes out), but we keep on doing what needs to be done for the benefit of our beloved companions.
Your routine and schedule shouldn’t change very much. Horses are creatures of habit, especially our domesticated friends. Try to keep feeding times very close to normal hours; horses can be stressed by unusual weather patterns, so keep the stressors in your control to a minimum. Don’t let concern about when you are going to show up for feeding time be a tension in your horse’s mind. To avoid an unnecessary colic, maintain your normal time schedule and routine regardless of the weather.
Keep ample water available at all times, and check the temperature or for ice frequently. Often times, frigid water is enough for a horse not to drink his minimum daily requirement. Dehydration is a common cause of mild bouts of colic, but is frequently preventable. Ensure your horse has enough sodium in his/her diet to trigger their natural thirst drive by adding salt to their feed.
Cold overnight temperatures call for more forage/hay, not a complete change in what you are actually feeding. While you might be tempted to supply a hot bran mash as a comfort, radical changes in their diet can cause more upset than staying with the norm. Horses are fermenters and rely on bacteria specialized to their specific diets to maintain stasis in the gut. Unexpected changes are not appreciated by these bacteria and can cause digestion upset. If you want to give them comfort, throw in an extra flake or two of hay before you leave at night. This will not only occupy their mouths and minds, the fermentation process to digest hay also produces much-needed heat.
While there is nothing you can do about the extreme changes in weather, you can make sure they are comfortable and healthy. Take the time to clean some tack or organize the barn rather than making a special trip to the feed store for something your horse likely doesn’t need. Be sure they have ample forage/hay available to fill their stomachs to keep acid levels down. A grazing, head-lowered, eating horse is a content horse.
Animal Nutrition Solutions Equine and Canine Consulting emphasizes client education over all else. It is our goal to have you understand the reason for our recommendations, achieving the best health for your animals, as well as ensuring that our clients become educated consumers to make good choices when purchasing animal feed and supplements. Since we are a private, independently owned company, we are not limited in our recommendations and suggestions by name brands and preferred dealers. We are not compensated by any company, instead we work for you! Your pet’s best health is our top priority.
We work primarily by referral basis, from both large and animal veterinarian referrals to farriers and clinicians and pet owners. Our rates are kept low to ensure that we are able to help the most amount of owners and animals possible. Consulting services for both horse and dog nutrition are offered to our clients.