How to look after your horse through the winter
Ellen Collinson Equine Iridologist and Herbalist
The obvious thing to make sure of in the winter is that your horse has enough food to keep him healthy and warm, and good quality hay or haylege is the number one priority, in fact if your horse is not working hay or haylege is quite sufficient to feed, you can always add some carrots, turnip or apples, but if they are not in work there is no need to feed concentrated ration, in fact the winter is natures way of giving wild animals a detox, Unless the ground is covered in deep snow wild horses/ponies will find enough forage grazing to sustain them through the winter, yes they will lose weight but when the spring grass comes they will soon regain it. If in the wild horses/ponies didn’t lose weight and have this natural detox, in the spring /summer they would suffer from the same ailments that domesticated ponies suffer from, namely Laminitis and sweet itch. I am not advocating starving hour horses or ponies but as I said if they are not working just feed hay/haylege.
Next make sure they are either in a field with good shelter, if there is no natural shelter then make sure they are rugged up or have a field shelter, also make sure they have a good supply of water, often this freezes up in the winter and water is always essential.
A good mineral block will also make sure they get all the minerals and trace elements they need, a good block for horses comes from a company called Tithebarn Limited, they are in Cheshire, they also sell excellent chelated minerals for adding to feed where necessary.
For horses that are in work depending on how hard they are working, good clean oats are a good feed, contrary to modern belief they do not cause temperament problems if fed correctly, ie amount in ratio to work, Boiled or micronized barley is fattening but is also very heating to the blood, Maize, normally fed flaked, is also fattening and is high in energy.
And of course the good old fashioned but much maligned bran mash twice a week to keep their bowels working properly, but of course this is frowned upon now by the ‘nutritionists’. Oats are also considerably cheaper than compound feeds and in this economic climate that has to be taken into consideration.
Mud fever is no longer a ‘winter’ ailment as we seem to have more mud in the summer, however if your horse is susceptible the best way to treat it is to buy a sachet of Virkon, dilute in a bucket of water and wash the scabs well, do not rinse off, but towel dry then bandage with wool bandages, once the legs are dry rub a good barrier cream all over the area, Protocon is a well known horse cream but I have always found a good udder cream for cows is usually a lot cheaper and works very well.
Coughs and colds are another problem, a home made treatment for these are to mix 1 tablespoon of Honey with 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, mix over low heat, then dose with a syringe three times a day, this will loosen any mucus, if the problem persists then a course of Respiratory herbs would be beneficial.