Baby, it's cold outside...
and that's where I
live! However, I have my two lovely fillies to keep me warm. (Yes!!!!
Eat your heart out, guys!) I know they pick on me, but they keep
But getting back to the cold, there are some
things upon which I'd like to give my opinions from this special
horse's point of view. I've been around for some 14 years or so
and have lived in different situations, so I have some background
for my comments.
I can't stress enough that I wish more owners
had more experience and knowledge about us equines when they decide
to buy us or keep us at home or in a barn. I'm sure that most
of the "ignorant" things you do are not mal-intended, but merely
from a lack of knowledge of how to treat us equines. I know Pam
offers some private or group classes for people who are interested
in learning about the proper way to care for us. I wish more people
would take these classes from Pam or anyone else who could afford
us more educated care.
When I was talking about things this summer,
I mentioned "cool, clear water" as a necessity. That was to have
lots of water for the hot days and to be sure the tanks were cleaned
regularly to get rid of any algae.
Winter isn't much different except that the
water doesn't get algae very quickly, but still needs to be cleaned
The biggest problem is that we don't drink
enough water during the cold weather. If I don't drink the water,
there isn't the motility in my gut to make things move through
on an even keel. When God made our bodies and systems he didn't
do us any favor
when it came to our inners and digestion, etc.
For those of you with automatic waterers,
it's really hard to tell if we're drinking enough water. At least
with buckets or water tanks in pastures or paddocks, people can
see how much we're drinking. It's really important in the winter
You may give us a bit of extra salt to help
make us thirsty and you may add electrolytes to our feed. If you
give us grain or supplements, you might make it into a mash with
warm water to give us more intake of water. But, the bottom line
is, please try to monitor and increase our water intake during
the winter months. We aren't very smart about it, which I hate
to admit, but we need your help and observations. Please be alert
for any signs of colic. If you don't know what to look for ask
your vet, or take a course or do some research on line.
Winter can be ugly and hard on horses, whether
in the barn or outside. We do a lot better if we carry some extra
weight on our bones going into winter. Especially those of us
who are getting up in years or are more frail. We use up a lot
of energy trying to stay warm. Some of us will probably need some
extra feedings, like a warm mash in the morning and afternoon.
Pam has a few of the older guys here doing that. They go up to
the barn for a supplemental mash in the morning and early afternoon.
I must admit they look pretty good for their ages, being in their
late twenties and thirty. Be sure to keep up the worming during
the winter months too.
People are sometimes our worst enemies, even
though you think you're helping us. I think it makes you feel
better to do certain things, thinking that it's helping us, when
it really isn't. For instance, depending upon what part of the
country you live in and have us, the barn may be a problem for
our health. We're really used to being outdoors in the natural
environment. We have a knack for fending for ourselves. We know
what it takes, for the most part. However, people want to coddle
us and warm us up, etc. They close the barns, have heat, etc.
The bottom line is we often end up getting sick due to a lack
of ventilation and air circulation. Usually we horses will grow
enough coat to keep ourselves warm under most circumstances, but
when you blanket us and turn up the heat in the barn, you're compromising
us and exposing us to more germs.
If we're enclosed in a stall in a barn, leave
the barn doors ajar for some ventilation and air circulation.
If it's an old barn there may be enough cracks between the boards
for the air flow, but if it's one of the newer prefab or newly
constructed barns, they're pretty airtight and need to have some
way for the air to circulate without having the North Pole draft
blowing through. If you use straw or shavings for bedding, the
dust in the air from them can be bad for our respiratory system
if there's no ventilation to move it out.
If we're out in a paddock or pasture, we
can manage quite well without a blanket if well attended and given
sufficient feed and hay and some shelter from the elements. I
believe that the blankets and coddling make our owners feel better,
more than helping us. The thoughts are appreciated, but please
don't compromise our health to make you feel better about what
you're doing for us. Also, if we're outside and get covered with
mud from rolling, please clean the mud off. Our insulating hair
can't stand up to warm us if it's coated in mud. Just give us
a curry to clean off the mud.
If you insist on putting a blanket on us,
please make sure it's the correct weight for the climate. Also,
please be sure it's waterproof, if you're going to leave it on
us outside in the rain or snow. There are any number of blankets
manufactured that can fill your needs. Be sure it fits properly
so we don't get a leg hung up in it. If in doubt, check with your
vet or local tack store.
Lots of people want to body clip us in the
winter. I know our winter coats aren't very attractive, but they're
functional. A lot of people just don't want to take the extra
time grooming us or cooling us out after a ride when we sweat
with our winter coats. How would you like to run around like a
naked jaybird when it's freezing outside? That's what it feels
like. For goodness sakes, if you're going to body clip us, at
least cover us up with a good blanket and please don't leave us
outside in the elements with no hair.
In line with grooming us, be sure to take
some extra precautions with your tack. It's really easy to gall
us and cause sores if the girth or saddle has dried mud on it
that rubs and irritates our skin causing a sore. The same thing
can happen with a dirty bridle rubbing on the face or a martingale
yoke between the legs. Please take those extra few minutes to
be sure our coats are clean and so is the tack. If you don't,
we very well may have to express our discomfort in a way you won't
appreciate, if you get my drift.
Also before you stick that cold piece of
steel or aluminum in my mouth, or any of my brethren, please warm
it up in your hands for a few minutes. It really makes a world
of difference. You can just blow on it in your hands and you warm
breath will take the chill off it. I guarantee it will put your
horse in a better frame of mind and he or she will be more willing
to accept the bit when you're trying to bridle up. We really are
pretty easy to get along with, if you take our thoughts, fears,
misgivings and feelings into consideration. We're not much different
from you people in that sense. We prefer to please and live in
harmony when we understand what you want, but we'll also balk
or fuss about things if we don't understand or trust what you
want or if we're uncomfortable or hurt from something.
Speaking of hurting, I live in sunny California,
the land of the "California girls", surfers, aging flower children,
etc. It's hot and dry in the summer, but wet and MUDDY in the
winter, at least up north where we are. By about the end of February
I'd rather have nice clean snow than the icky, sticky mud. It
seems like foot abscesses are a way of life in the winter, which
are no fun. They hurt big time. Please take care of us if we show
signs of lameness. Depending upon your level of experience, you
may be able to take care of us, but if in doubt, please call your
vet to treat the problem. Foot abscesses are not only painful,
but can become serious problems if they get infected.
There are a couple of other problems common
during the wet winters, such as "mud fever", which is from standing
around in the mud, "rain rot", which forms scabs on the horses'
coats from being out in the rain. These should be recognized and
treated. If you don't have the experience, please contact your
vet to take care of us. We also develop the snotty noses and coughs
just like people, especially if there is a lot of traffic of horses
coming and going from different places. We really don't have to
worry about that here at the farm, but when Pam gets a new horse
in she'll "quarantine" him/her for several days, just in case
they brought anything with them that could be transmitted to the
rest of us.
I could go on about lot of stuff, but I hear
my girls calling and wanting my attention. I can't slight them,
so gotta go for now. But before I do I want to wish all you people
out there a horse's perspective of a Merry Christmas and Happy
New Year - carrots, cookies, peppermints, apples, carrots, pats,
cookies, attention, carrots, peppermints. Do you get the message?
Happy Holidays and may all your days be merry ones with one of
I remain as ever,