What is in this article?:
- Combat cold weather nutritional stress in horses
- Provide shelter
- Horses fight the elements by using more energy to maintain body temperature.
- As a general rule, a 1 percent increase in the energy requirements is needed to replace energy loss from the cold weather for each degree the temperature falls below the horse's thermo-neutral zone (lower critical temperature).
- A horse manager cannot just provide additional feed to offset loss of body condition.
Another way horse owners can lessen an equine’s stress resulting from exposure to cold weather is to provide some form of shelter from wind, rain and cold. Some pastures provide enough natural protection that man-made shelters are not required.
“Owners housing horses in areas unprotected from wet, windy weather should consider constructing windbreaks or sheds,” Freeman said. “The cost of windbreaks and sheds will be partially offset by savings in feed costs as a horse’s energy requirements lessen.”
Freeman reminds owners to consider horse instincts and herd pecking orders when deciding on windbreak or shed design. Those areas housing one or two horses that are compatible with one another will allow for an enclosed shed with three or four sides. These structures should be similar in size to recommendations for stalls, a 10-feet- by-10-feet minimum for one horse.
The same type of structure will not work in pens with large numbers of horses or bands of horses with large ranges in horse dominance orders.
“An enclosed, sided structure may increase horse injury to horses on the low end of the herd dominance order by the more dominant horses,” Freeman said. “This type of structure may be inefficient because dominant horses will keep others from having access.”
Freeman recommends single-sided windbreaks with a top cover be used in herds with dominance problems.
“Also, owners should consider two or three of these structures spread about the area because one long, continuous structure is easily guarded by dominant horses,” he said. “Structure dimensions will depend on the degree of herd dominance problems.”
In situations where aggressive behavior becomes such a problem that horses need to be separated, horses on the low end of the herd order generally will need more shelter because they are the ones that are usually in the least favorable body condition.