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Equine winter weight loss: What you should know

Thoroughbred horse at fence in winter

It’s normal for horses to lose weight throughout the winter season. After packing on the pounds in spring and summer, they use their metabolism and gained body fat to keep warm when the temperatures drop. However, this could lead to an underweight horse and cause a host of problems.

Effects of winter weight loss

Losing weight during the winter season can cause significant health problems to horses, especially for the older ones. If the weight loss is not discovered right away, rehabilitating the underweight horse can be difficult.

Horse winter weight loss often leads to:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor digestion system
  • Dental issues
  • Parasites
  • Colic

Preventing winter weight loss

  1. Examine your horse and check its weight regularly

    The easiest and fastest way to know if your horse has dropped a couple of pounds is to assess its body. Can you feel and see the bones underneath its ribs, hips, chest, and tail head? Is its spine sharply visible? If your answer is yes, then your horse has definitely lost weight.

    Another way to watch your horse’s weight is to know its history. Does your horse usually lose weight during winter? By knowing the weight history of your horse, you can be better prepared for the coming winter season.

  2. Feed your horse small portions all throughout the day

    Regular feeding schedules also help minimize winter weight loss. Provide your horse with high-quality grass or hay at least three to four times a day. Hay, in particular, keeps your horse warm and happy because it’s loaded with fiber and protein which aid in good digestion. With a regular feeding schedule, your horse will maintain a healthy digestive system and optimum metabolism.

  3. Hydrate your horse properly

    Winter temperatures can chill or freeze water solid. This makes it difficult for horses to drink. This lack of water prevents horses from processing their food and leads to dehydration. Keep your horse well-hydrated at all times with a good water heater. Also, don’t forget to check on their water buckets regularly and to break the ice if needed.

  4. Use coats and blankets for extra warmth

    Coats and blankets are a great way to keep your horses extra warm. However, it may become harder to detect an underweight horse if it is constantly wearing a long winter blanket or coat. Check on your horse regularly and look out for any signs of weight loss, blanket rubs, or skin diseases. You must also make sure to not over-blanket your horse as it can cause the horse to sweat and lose more weight.

  5. Keep your horse in top condition before winter

    All the other seasons give you plenty of time to get your horse in tip-top shape. With the accumulated body fat, your horse develops more insulation and heat for the body warmth it needs when the temperatures drop.

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