Keeping horses healthy in the cold months

Monday, February 1, 2010

When cold weather comes it is very likely that you will not continue to ride your horses throughout the cold months.

Most horse owners don't own an indoor arena and also have no desire to ride in the cold weather. Especially during the coldest temperature and the nastiest weather we need to remember that our large animal companions need attention.

When winter comes it is very important to supply your horses with a good feeding program and to provide adequate housing. The horses now have already developed their large fur coats and it is harder to see if they are losing weight. It is important to maintain a good feeding regimen throughout the winter months to make sure they have enough energy to keep themselves warm.

A regular feeding program can be followed pretty well until the temperature reaches below 20 degrees F. Because the horse requires more energy to keep warm, it helps to increase its hay to make up for some of the energy requirement. As a generalization a horse should get 1- pounds of hay per 100 pounds of body weight per day. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees it is helpful to increase the hay to 2 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.

Make sure you watch how much your horses are drinking. The cold weather will cause horses to drink less, making dehydration a concern. If it is snowing and slippery make sure you clean their hooves regularly. Ice and snow can build up in the hoof causing the horse to have trouble with traction.

Proper winter shelter is a must for horses to survive the winter. At a very minimum you should have a windbreak available and an overhead shelter to help protect from sleet and rain.

If you are housing in a barn make sure the barn is not drafty, but is well ventilated. It should be kept fairly cold, no more than 1-2 degrees higher than the outside temperature.

If you are showing horses or have other special reasons, you may have a heated and insulated barn. Be aware, however, that an insulated barn can cause humidity to build up, which can cause respiratory problems.

Also, those horses housed in a heated environment will have a tougher time dealing with the cold because their winter coats may not have come in as thick as their outdoor counterparts. Be aware that it is not uncommon for a normal horse to choose to stand outside of a comfortable, well-bedded barn, and face the brunt of a snowstorm. They were made to be outdoors, and many deal very well being out in a winter storm.

Just make sure they have a place to go when the decided they have had enough.

Beginning Farmer Program About to Start

Purdue Extension wants to help you navigate the number of potential issues that might arise from living in the country.

I know that small farmers and landowners have a huge need for information and technical assistance to help them "do the right thing" for their land, wildlife, and water resources.

Come and be part of this new program. Living on the Land has the expertise and information you need to be successful. The 12 classes will start Feb. 9 and will be every Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m.

You must register for the class by calling the Extension Office at 653-8411.

The cost is $200 per person -- that is about$16 a class. There are family rates -- it's only $75 for an additional person to attend the program with you.

The Putnam County Master Gardeners are also offering a grant to help cover the cost. To apply for the grants please contact me.

This price includes experts coming to talk to you, many handouts and networking opportunities. We are taking late registrations too.

The Putnam County Small Farms Workgroup

Interested in growing vegetables for a farmers' market? Do you have chickens and want to sell eggs? Do you have questions about marketing your homemade products? Have a few acres and what to try to make a little money from it?

The Putnam County Small Farms Workgroup may be a place to come and work on the challenges of small production.

The goal is to be a working group to help small farm producers and large farm producers looking to diversify with all of the challenges that come with a new or niche enterprise.

We can help you network with other people, get answers to your questions, match the programming to your needs and help you become successful.

If you have any questions about any of the programs, contact Ann Delchambre at 653-8411, adelchambre@purdue.edu, Facebook Putnam County Agriculture or Twitter AgAgent.