Tuesdays with Tony
The first cold snap of the year is always dreadful for us thin-skinned Florida cats. There are several topics that classically arise this time of year including blanketing recommendations, colic concerns, and barn management.
Currently, the number one question we are hearing around the clinic is whether or not to blanket the horses. There are several things to take into consideration when making that decision. First of all, if your horse is clipped, they are more likely to need that extra layer than one that is not. General recommendations are that if the overnight low is in the 50s to use a light sheet, and if it is in the 40s to use a light/medium blanket. If it’s in the 30s or below you will need a heavier blanket, but thankfully that’s a rare occurrence in Florida!
|Low in lower 50’s||Low in lower 40’s||Low in lower 30’s||20’s or below|
|Clipped||Sheet||Light blanket||Med Blanket||Move Further South|
If your horse is not body clipped, you will likely not need to blanket at all, with a few special considerations. Horses with underlying conditions, like PPID (aka Cushing’s), or those that are underweight may have more difficulty regulating their temperature. In general, horses should also have access to a shelter from excessive rain and wind in order to tolerate a drop in temperature.
After blanketing, it is always smart to check each animal to make sure they are not sweating or overheating under a blanket. There is a greater health concern of a horse overheating under a blanket than being too cold without one!
With cold weather changes, there is unfortunately an increased concern for colic in horses. This weather change from warm to cold is often accompanied by decreased drinking by the horse. In the past, bran mashes were fed during this time to prevent colic. Unfortunately, this is no longer a good idea (was it ever?!) because introducing a different food your horse is not accustomed to can be a perpetrator of colic itself! Instead, adding water to your horse’s normal feed is recommended. If you’re feeling cold, you can even add warm water!
Monitoring feed intake and manure production is also essential during this time. We often give extra hay when the cool weather starts for a few different reasons. For one, the pastures are not growing as well and adding hay is often necessary to meet daily forage requirements. Additionally, we know that eating forage can contribute to keeping them warm (hindgut fermenters, blessing and a curse). As we add in more hay, we need to make sure that manure production isn’t slowing down, as this can be a first early sign of an impaction. It’s important to feed a high quality hay during these times as lower quality forages, such as coastal, can be a common culprit in colics.
Covering All The [Frozen] Bases
Those of you unlucky enough to have lived through a winter in the dreaded north realize that barn maintenance during cold weather is imperative. When temperatures reach freezing levels, it may be necessary to disconnect hoses and leave a steady drip from the spigots to prevent pipes from freezing. Breaking thick ice out of water troughs and buckets can also be a common occurrence, and sometimes the hose itself is too frozen for refills, so you have to carry water back and forth from the stalls to the spigot.
Don’t worry too much about the temperature of your horse’s water. If you want to use a bucket heater to keep it from freezing solid, that’s fine. But studies have shown that horses will drink water that’s 35-45 degrees F preferentially over warmer water, even when it’s sub-freezing temperatures outside. Further proof that cats are superior, if you ask me.
Let’s be sure to be extra Thankful on Thursday that we don’t need to walk to the barn with a hammer to break ice out of water buckets here in Florida! And for those of you in cold climates, I’ll think about you while I’m basking in the sunshine.
Until next week,
P.S. If you really want to take a deep dive into cold weather stuff, the humans have a podcast episode on this very topic. You can find it over on the Podcast Page, just scroll down the episode list all the way back to Season 1, Episode 15. Or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. I know, it’s so much good stuff, it’s hard to take it all in. You’re welcome.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!