Cold Weather Horse Care Precautions Shared

More than 1,270 readers of TheHorse.com responded to a poll asking, "What do you do to help your horse cope with below-normal temperatures?"

results of poll on cold weather management

Results were as follows: 

  • Providing shelter (barn, lean-to): 88.82% (1,128)
  • Providing unlimited forage: 67.48% (857)
  • Heated water troughs/buckets: 62.28% (791)
  • Providing blankets: 60.87% (773)
  • Providing high-fiber feed: 44.33% (563)

Readers shared how they combat the cold temperatures in the comments below.

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  • cutting back on grain and increasing forage
  • Keeping water from freezing with a heating element worked well for us this year.
  • extra hay
  • pull your horses shoes so they don't slip and snow dosn't ball up in their feet
  • BREAK ICE IN PONDS
  • We also make sure each horse gets at least 4 flakes of hay daily
  • I provide elity hay when it's extra cold
  • My horse has a run in shed so I blanket if the wind is blowing and the temp drops below 5 or 10 deg.
  • On Very Cold Nights, I give my horses a Nice Hot Bran Mash with Sweet feed & Cracked Corn added.
  • all of the above - blankets, stall, clean non frozen water and some get hot mash and plenty of hay
  • all but blankets...they really don't need them as long as they have the rest, consistently.
  • Mostly all, he is 33+ years old.
  • keep them out so they are free to move around if threy desire
  • We also bring them in at night ;-) Lucky horses!
  • bran mash with mineral oil
  • unless snowing or rain horses out 24-7 with waterproof turnouts heated water and free-choice hay
  • Blankets take away a horse's natural ability to control its temperature - they should be outlawed!
  • chafhay really works. It gives them the hay with extra molasses that makes our ponies drink.
  • check regularly for shivvering
  • brush horses at least 2 times weekly & do NOT blanket
  • Blanket if snow or rain/sleet. Stalled if icy. Exercised in indoor arena.
  • Blanket only if necessary - most horses need to grow thicker coat
  • sheets, then blankets, and lots of hay for the hindgut
  • plenty of spruce and pine trees to add a wind block to the feed area
  • heated room for barn kitties
  • wish i could afford to offer unlimited forage!
  • Keep an eye on manure & add bran/soaked beet pulp as required
  • Keeping them healthy, letting their hair grow, providing feed, water and shelter = no problems
  • keep in when icy
  • Lots of hay, lots of water, loose salt, and a windbreak even at -30 C they're fine
  • All of the above and extra vigilance just take a few more seconds and do a double once over
  • When really bad keep them in the barn
  • I had warm water to the feed before putting out in the paddock.
  • Don't heat the water.Have a deicer in water to prevent freezing.Lots of good hay and shelter 24/7
  • My general rule of thumb is to blanket when it's 15 degrees or colder at night.
  • warm water meals
  • no shelter, they have to find a tree. in tx, this isn't as bad as it could be...
  • I also soak alfalfa cubes in hot water to make a "hot toddy" to warm them up
  • pellets mixed with hot water for inner warmth :)
  • float a soccer ball in unheated water troughs to always leave a hole in the ice.
  • Increase the amount of hay I give my horse.
  • I also provide additional forage, but not unlimited
  • Provide room temperature water every 2-3 days of freezing temperatures
  • Provide a mid day grass hay feeding. Provides extra fiber mid day for hind gut to produce heat
  • I bring warm water from the house to fill up water buckets. I don't trust the heated buckets.
  • turnout rug and round bales. keep on exercising! its good in winter! keeps them warm and fit
  • By Hi Fiber you mean good grass Hay? YES, 24/7. The most important feed for horses well being.
  • Our horses are in a semi heated barn and are given extra hay when needed.
  • blankets only as needed if sleet or freezing rain
  • short of putting him in a cocoon= anything which make winter more bearable
  • Add 1T salt to feed to encourage drinking, feed warm beet pulp, warm water, keep dry and draft free
  • I blanket if they shiver, which is rare. If I must clip, it is as little as possible, a trace clip.
  • Pay close attention to him--visits every day, even when I don't want to brave the cold
  • We blanket and watch them closely.
  • warm mashes with salt
  • I also mix up a little beet pulp with warm water. I also add the electrolytes to this mixture.
  • Heated water tank to make sure they drink enough and extra hay to keep them warm.
  • Extra bedding in his stall and extra alfalfa
  • I add oil to their feed. I blanket only if horse shows signs of being cold.
  • Getting a blanket on them before amajor temp drop is a must, ration grains according to weather
  • shelter if they want it, heated water and all the hay they can eat is enough. No need to blanket
  • We feed them extra flakes of hay throughout the day.
  • add high fat feed supplement
  • keep ice balls picked out of their hooves.
  • Deeper bedding
  • stalled @nite, warm(er) water. blankets! beet pulp added to feed.
  • My horses get extra hay when temp drops. And they need it. When
  • All the above.
  • They go in the barn when bad weather or below zero temps & windchills. extra hay if outside
  • Daily turn out as much as possible. Maintain physical condition.
  • Add grain to regular forage amounts.
  • higher risk horses are checked under their blankets 2 x a day to ensure they are warm enough.
  • feed extra hay
  • I STALL MINE, BLANKETS, DOUBLE BLANKET FOR OLD PONY, UNLIMITED HAY
  • Plenty of hay and water, stabled with blankets, how many depends on the outside/inside temperature.
  • Lots of grass hay...turnout whenever possible, dependant upon weather conditions (central OH)
  • extra hay to eat and sleep on, apples to keep them happy
  • Keeping them dry outside with Goretex sheets.
  • Put hot water in the food bucket and mix
  • Cannot provide warm water 24/7.Mix v/hot water in his b/fast & tea feeds.
  • WATER-the most important ingrediant. If heated water not available clean ice build up out of buckets
  • My horse drinks a lot of warm water!
  • I put salt in their feed and serve the Vita Royal feed in 1 1 /2 gal of water - they love it!!
  • I add table salt to their feed to make tham drink more water
  • I add oats to the regular feed when the temp. drops, helps keep them warm.
  • not unlimited, but extra hay at night
  • My horse is kept in a stall so her winter coat doesn't get thick enough for super cold temps.
  • My three get sheets & blankets, soaked beet pulp w/hay cubes mixed w/their grain, & extra hay.
  • mix hot water with grain ration, uumm they like that, also put wood shavings over icy areas
  • He has a blanket if he needs it but hasn't yet; he'll tell me if he's cold.
  • bran mash;extra blankets;extra hay;stall time
  • Adding Corn oil to feed is an awesome alternative to increasing feed. Also adds shine to the coat .
  • Providing more hay
  • I keep my senior in at night and on really cold days shorten her time outside.
  • I make sure they have non stop hay to give them extra internal warmth
  • Go and check on her every chance I get!!
  • Use salt in round pen to keep footing soft so can exercise
  • add a favorite flavor to the water to encourage more intake
  • Help to grow a full, fluffy coat and keep it clean.
  • feeding warm mashes
  • I take hot water out.
  • soak feed in hot water to aid in water consumption
  • shelter is not used!
  • I pour warm water in their water buckets over the ice, give them a warm sloppy mash of beet pulp & g
  • live in Arizona ;>
  • electrolytes
  • We feed their beet pulp warm
  • We put a thick layer of fresh hay on the floor of the stalls to provide warmth for their lower legs.
  • I provide all of the above because of the unusual cold spell.
  • provide beet pulp soaked and salt added. I also give more hay when temp are below zero.
  • increasing hay
  • Not unlimited forage, but the right amount of forage
  • Add salt to feed to keep them drinking.
  • -40: Feed hay 3x, free access water, open shed. Happy healthy horses.
  • feeding oat hay along with regular hay
  • up the hay
  • Horses are outside 24/7 unless weather is unusually cold; unhairy horses blanketed
  • Elderly horse blanketed, not others
  • This this Cal. after all Fjords come from a lot colder areas
  • lucky that the severe cold doesn't last londg in Southeast Georgia!!!
  • Some kind of windbreak and lots of extra hay. Usually free fed.
  • Blanket old horses, keep their fur groomed so it can fluff and insulate non-blanketed horses
  • I ensure adequate water consumption by feeding warm, soupy bran mashes, esp to older or sick horses
  • Alfalfa!
  • If you can't provide a heated trough/bucket still top off their buckets a.m. and p.m. with hot water
  • I mix supplements with apple sauce and warm water and feed it in a bucket to make sure he
  • She already has the rest all the time.
  • I keep Sadie out with a mid weight blanket. Access to grass, hay and water
  • We use large straw bales to 'build' a wind-break for our native ponies.
  • Extra hay too, but not free choice
  • If it is going to be below zero during the day, they get blanketed.
  • lots and lots of hay
  • I feed 3x a day, my last feeding is at 11:30pm and I give extra hay on nights below 25 degrees
  • Make sure they get salt/minerals to keep them drinking.
  • Flakes of brome hay with a handful of "pixie dust" (alfalfa) sprinkled in for taste!
  • Stall overnight only if below 0 degrees. HOT MASH DAILY.
  • round bales in feeders
  • Keep the hair brushed so it can stand out from the body for insulation
  • Warm beet pulp mash every day!
  • A lot of turn-out time to keep them moving when it's too cold to ride!
  • Some snow. Horses stay hairy. Break ice over water and lots of forage hay.
  • bran mash with barometric change
  • Hot sugar beet mash to get moisture into feed
  • provide increased forage, no unlimited. All my horses are fatties.
  • I have access to large bales of hay, provided 24-7
  • Hoping my big draft will keep my 5 donkeys warm enough in their shelter
  • all the hay and water they want, older horse gets better shelter and blanket, senior feed too.
  • making sure that water is available and ice broken if needed.
  • Leave them out late into fall to allow them to develop a healthy winter coat.
  • Not really an issue in So. CA, but I always blanket and feed well.
  • Last year I removed soil under the dripline of my barn roof, added traprock. No more mud!
  • My 'crew' come into the barn when it's freezing temps & windy; usually they are outside.
  • Making sure they are kept clean from dirt and mud, in the barn and covered if necessary
  • Bought the Wild Angel Bucket Cozy to help keep water buckets from freezing.
  • keeping warm and dry with access to water is priorities
  • warm bran mash
  • I only blanket when it get down below 10 degrees, then take them off as soon as it reaches into 20s
  • Feed hay several times per day
  • We can get below zero weather with the windchill. We start preparing and stocking up in November
  • Big round bale of Brome & make sure water is open.
  • I only blanket if the horse is shivering or obviously cold
  • We are in Az, cold is when it hits 32 degrees-blankets go on and inc the feed
  • beet pulp soaked with warm water adds fluids to prevent colic, fiber to prevent colic and warmth
  • don't coddle them, they need to build up their immune sytem
  • Grass forage gives more steady heat
  • Make sure to clean the snow and ice balls out of their feet and off their fetlocks
  • We just bust ice and refill buckets every day too afraid of barn fires with heated buckets!
  • Insulated bucket holders work really well and no electricity required
  • They have stalls/shelter. I make sure they drink and I provide extra hay in cold weather.
  • giving warm water once/day, and bran mash 2xs per week
  • we are lucky, special paddocks designed for winter use, good rambo blankets, stable never below 10c,
  • increase hay ration
  • Use warm water & provide more water when feeding more hay!
  • They live outside with shelter and warmed water - eating forage is how the keep their inner furnace
  • My outdoor pen has a cover, I just give more hay at night.
  • blankets and plenty of hay
  • more hay
  • warm water tubs - the 16 gal plug in type that actually warms water- horses love it & drink plenty
  • only hard keepers get blankets & beet pulp

About the Author

Megan Arszman

Megan Arszman received a Bachelor of Science In print journalism and equine science from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and loves combining her love of horses, photography, and writing. In her “free time,” when she’s not busy working as a horse show secretary or riding her American Quarter Horses on her parents’ Indiana farm, she’s training and competing her Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Swedish Vallhund in dog agility and running.

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