Help your horse warm up to winter


January 10, 1993|By MUPHEN WHITNEY

The recent weather swings have had most horsemen running ragged trying to keep their horses comfortable and healthy throughout the changes.

Sooner or later, the weather will start acting like winter, and horsemen's thoughts will turn to low temperatures and wind-chill factors.

Extension agent Bob Shirley of the Carroll County Extension Service office has some cold-weather horse management tips for Maryland horsemen.

Shirley said that the hardest thing to convince horse people of is that feeding hay generates more body heat than feeding grains.

Shirley also pointed out that the two most important things in a horse's winter environment are shelter and water.

"The worst weather for a horse is a cold, driving rain," Shirley said. "If he's in a field with snow and he has shelter he should be fine."

Drafts in a barn cause more problems than low temperatures, so check carefully for places where drafts can come in when the wind blows.

"Keep water in front of your horse at all times," Shirley said. "Water is just as important in cold weather as it is in hot weather."

It may be difficult, but try to keep the water from freezing because some horses won't drink very cold water.

In cold weather, people sometimes lose sight of the obvious things like water, shelter and increasing the horse's feed.

Shirley said that blanketing should not be necessary unless your horse is clipped or unless he shows real signs of being cold.

When it comes to working your horse in cold weather, footing is the biggest concern. There are commercial products available to keep ice and snow from building up in your horse's shoes, but make sure you check his feet carefully after you have finished riding.

Don't forget to warm up and cool down adequately before and after working your horse. If you work him hard on a regular basis, he may need to be clipped and blanketed.

Make sure you know the different types of clips and give your horse one suited for his work. He may not need an entire body clip.

Shirley offered the ultimate advice on horse care -- good advice for any weather:

"Know your horse," he said. "Know what is normal behavior for him under different circumstances. Observe him at least twice a day for a long enough period so that you'll recognize if there is anything wrong."

Extension services help

The extension services in Maryland's counties have a lot to offer horsemen. Their offices make available information on planning, buildings, fencing, pasture management, nutrition, health and management of horses.

Most of the help that the extension services provide come free of charge, although there is a small fee for some publications and for some of the major services.

An extension service will test your soil and offer recommendations for a reasonable fee. Extension agents suggest that one sample per field be taken.

Extension services then will recommend the proper seed mixtures and offer advice on weed control and fertilizing. They can identify toxic plants for you if you bring in a sample of a suspicious plant.

You also can test the hay you feed your horses through extension services. This way you can find out the nutrient content of your horse's hay and balance his diet through the grain and supplements you feed him.

Calendar of events

Saturday Advanced Breeding Technology seminar, Hilltop Farm, Colora. (410) 658-9898.

Jan. 20 -- Carroll County Equestrian Council seminar on the Equine Activities Limited Liability Act, 7:30 p.m., refreshments served; Agricultural Center, Westminster. (410) 833-4593.

Jan. 22-23 -- Dressage Show and Clinic, Hilltop Farm, Colora. (410) 658-9898.

Jan. 23-24 -- Karen Lende Three-Day Eventing Clinic, all day, Maple Spring Farm, Glenwood. (410) 442-2295.

Feb. 2 -- General meeting of Carroll County Equestrian Council, 7:30 p.m., East Middle School, Longwell Avenue, Westminster. (410) 833-4593.

Feb. 28 -- Flat and jumping clinic with Three-Day Event rider Bruce Davidson, Shadow Brook Farm, Elkridge. (410) 496-4947.

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