Horsekeeping during the winter brings its own unique challenges, and those challenges can wreak havoc on your horse’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract and increase his risk for digestive upset. However, with the right care and support, you can help ensure your horse has everything he needs to maintain a happy and healthy hindgut.
“While a direct correlation between weather and digestive upset can be challenging to prove,” said Lydia Gray, DVM, SmartPak’s staff veterinarian, “experts have definitely been able to show links between activity changes, hydration, and diet changes, so I recommend owners focus their efforts on those areas.”
Increased Stall Time
Winter weather sometimes leads to changes in your horse’s turnout and exercise routine. Research shows that increased number of hours spent in a stall has been associated with increased risk of colic. It also suggests that there is a higher risk of colic in horses that have a significant change in activity, like suddenly being stuck inside during a storm. One tip is to keep your horse’s turnout and exercise schedule as consistent as possible, and try to make any changes gradually. When winter weather and/or poor footing limits your horse’s turnout time, try hand-walking, longeing, or riding, if possible.
Inadequate Water Intake
Some horses drink less in the winter because of cold water, but proper hydration is essential to your horse’s well-being no matter season it is. Because a dehydrated horse might not have adequate water supplies to successfully pass feedstuffs through his digestive tract, he could be at risk for GI trouble, including impaction colic.