Walking On Volume 4, Issue 11, November 2017 - Page 6

Back to Basics Horse Health Care in the Winter By Madalyn Ward, DVM  Keeping your horse warm, healthy, and happy during the winter can be challenging, especially if you live in a climate with extreme cold weather. While temperatures don’t drop too far here in Texas, I have many clients in northern states who struggle to keep their horses fat and sassy during this winter. So this issue is dedicated to horse health care during the winter, including ways to minimize your feed bill and ways to prevent chiropractic issues. Horse Health Care Basics for Winter Before diving into the different kinds of horse feed and other tips, I’m going to first cover the basics. These apply year-round, but are especially important before winter sets in. You probably already know about these, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them so I’ll cover them quickly here. Teeth: If you horse has not had a float within the last year, it may be time to take him in for a checkup and possibly a float. A horse with sharp points, hooks, or ramps in his mouth tends to drop feed or chew improp- erly, which can lead to indigestion or colic. More im- portantly, your horse doesn’t get the most out of his feed and you could end up with unwanted vet bills to treat colic. Parasites: Going into winter, it’s always a good idea to chec k your horse for parasites with a fecal test. Even if 6 • Walking On the fecal test comes back negative, you may want to give your horse a double dose of Strongid-type wormer to take care of tapeworms, which do not show up in a fecal analysis. You can do this up to once a year. Stress: Horses can quickly lose weight when stressed. Causes of stress are numerous, including extreme physi- cal cold, injuries, hard training, or even changes in living environment. Horses can also be emotionally stressed by doing a job for which they are not suited or if their liv- ing conditions are unsuitable. For instance, a horse that is constantly being picked on by his herd mates won’t have access to feed, and may not feel like eating. The Best Horse Feed for Winter To keep your horse healthy this winter, you need to make sure he is getting enough of the right kind of cal- ories to stay warm, and drinking enough water to keep his digestion functioning properly. Let’s talk about calories first. If the temperature drops dramatically during the winter in your part of the coun- try, your goal will be to keep your horse warm. The best way to feed your horse to keep him warm is to increase the fiber in his diet, which includes hay, alfalfa, and beet pulp. Increased fiber keeps a horse warmer than increased grain because the digestion of fiber generates heat. Hay and other kinds of fiber are digested in the horse’s hindgut, or large intestine, which generates much