With the last of the leaves fallen, the holidays behind us, and the daylight hours shorter than ever, winter is upon us again. All too often owners are tardy in implementing winter precautions for horses and farm, or they might have overlooked those precautions entirely. This can result in headaches for the owner and hardship for the horses. The onset of cold weather often brings with it an entirely different set of challenges, so I wanted to touch on the various causes of cold weather-induced colic and other winter ailments and methods of preventing these problems.

Any veterinarian will attest to dehydration being a hallmark precursor to colic in cold weather. In the coming months, the ambient air temperature will continue to drop, resulting in cold (and sometimes frozen) water troughs and buckets. Sometimes a horse may be unable to drink because extreme temperatures have frozen the water in the trough, but typically the problem is the water in the trough is so painfully cold to drink that horses avoid it. Horses will then continue eating their daily rations of forage and grain, but with lost water intake, dehydration and subsequent impaction are a foreseeable consequence.

Fortunately, administering oral fluids and pain relievers will resolve the majority of these conditions, but they can be prevented.

Water heaters for buckets and troughs are inexpensive, easy to install, and invaluable to maintaining a horse’s water consumption through the winter months. Often owners will ask if adding electrolytes will help increase their horses’ water intake. Truthfully, as long as the water is a reasonable temperature, a horse will self-regulate hi