1. Make sure your horse drinks plenty of water and gets lots of exercise. The risk of impaction colic spikes during winter months. This is due to a confluence of factors, including a decrease in water consumption and physical activity and an increase in dried forage intake. You can counteract these by making every effort to keep your horse well hydrated and moving throughout the season. Do this by ensuring he has unfrozen water available at all times and that automatic waterers are always functioning properly. Also, turn him out for as many hours as possible each day. If weather or footing conditions make turnout unsafe, replace that activity with daily riding or hand-walking.
2. Give him lots of fresh air. Keeping a horse in a closed-up barn wreaks havoc with his respiratory system. Dusty air will trigger heaves in susceptible horses and challenge the immune systems of even the healthiest members of your herd. If your horse spends time indoors this winter, make sure the barn is well ventilated. This may mean opening windows and aisle doors on even the most frigid nights and using extra blankets on the horses. If you can smell ammonia or see any signs of condensation on barn surfaces, the air is too stagnant to be safe for horses.
3. Go easy on his joints. Horses with arthritis will feel a bit “creakier” in the colder weather—a phenomenon you may be familiar with yourself. If you’re not already feeding one, now may be the time to discuss adding to his diet a supplement designed to support joint health. You’ll also want to plan in extra time to warm-up before each ride, taking it slow until you feel your horse loosen up.
4. Check the labels of any medications you have stored in unheated areas. Many cannot withstand cold temperatures and may become ineffective, if not harmful, if they freeze. Store cold-sensitive products in a climate-controlled area of the barn or keep them in the house over the winter.