As the winter months approach, it’s important to make sure your senior horse is well taken care of. Cold temperatures and harsh weather can be especially tough on older horses, who may have more health concerns than their younger counterparts. To help keep your senior horse happy and healthy this winter, here are some tips to manage arthritis, keep him warm, protect his joint health, and exercise when it’s too cold to ride.
Think About Comfort
Arthritis is a common condition in senior horses, particularly in colder weather. If your horse suffers from arthritis, there are several things you can do to help manage his discomfort during the winter months.
1. Keep him moving: Regular exercise can help keep your senior horse’s joints limber and reduce stiffness. If it’s too cold to ride, consider hand-walking or allowing your horse to roam in turnout.
2. Provide warm shelter: Cold temperatures can aggravate arthritis symptoms, so make sure your senior horse has access to a warm shelter where he can escape the elements. Even if he often chooses not to utilize it.
3. Consider supplements: Talk to your veterinarian about adding joint supplements to your senior horse’s diet. These can help support joint health and reduce inflammation.
Aside from managing arthritis, there are other ways to protect your senior horse during the winter months.
4. Keep him hydrated: Adequate hydration is important for joint health and can also help prevent impaction colic during the cold winter months when horses may drink less due to colder water temperatures. Use tank heaters, heated buckets, or electrolytes to entice him into drinking.
5. Avoid icy surfaces: Slippery ice and snow can be dangerous for any horse, but especially for those with joint issues. Make sure your senior horse has safe footing during turnout and exercise.
6. Consider stable bedding: Soft, deep bedding can help provide cushioning for your senior horse’s joints while he rests inside during the winter.
7. Blanket if necessary: Some senior horses may need a blanket to help keep them warm during colder temperatures. However, be sure to regularly check for any rubbing or discomfort that the blanket may cause. Consult with your vet if you’re unsure if your senior needs a blanket.
8. Increase hay intake: Providing your senior horse with extra hay can help generate heat from within and keep him warm. Up the hay and forage during the colder months, especially for hard keepers. Work with your veterinarian on a nutrition plan for your senior, if you notice him dropping weight. And check his teeth!
Too Cold to Ride?
9. Hand walking: Taking your senior horse for a walk around the barn or property can help keep him moving and provide some mental stimulation during the colder months.
10. Groundwork: Practicing groundwork exercises with your senior horse can help maintain his muscle tone and keep them mentally engaged. Do this on a safe surface without ice, to protect the both of you.
11. Consider indoor exercise: If you have access to an indoor arena, consider longeing and riding your senior horse to provide some controlled exercise without the added risk of riding in icy conditions.
Without a doubt, winter care for senior horses can be challenging, but with proper management and attention, you can help your senior equine friend stay comfortable and healthy throughout the season. While these tips are helpful for most senior horses, it’s important to remember that every horse is different and may have specific needs. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes or implementing new practices in your senior horse’s care routine.