As the winter draws in some of our equine friends can feel the cold a little more than others. As an older horse owner myself I thought that I could reflect on some of the issues and how to combat them as the weather turns.
Swelling in the legs - this is common not only in older horses but as turnout tends to be less, they spend more time in the stable. Over the years I have tried a number of things to combat this, including magnetic boots, stable wraps, and supplements. I have found that the only thing that prevents swelling is good old bandaging. Yes it takes a little more time but it really does work! Just make sure you are know how to bandage properly with even pressure.
Stiffness - again with the longer times spent in the stable, horses can become a bit more stiff when riding. It is important to stretch the horses legs out both front and back, i do this in the morning and before I ride if time permits. I usually lunge for around 10 minutes before I get on to warm up the horses muscles and back. There are a multitude of supplements that claim to combat stiffness, I have found that over the years anything with MSM or Glucosamine has helped slightly but they are useful for maintenance purposes only.
Mane Loss - this is an easy one to combat if you have a rug with no neck. Just try and hold off putting a neck on for as long as possible, until absolutely necessary. This will keep the hair follicles in great health and no rubbing means no hair will fall out and you will be left with a thick mane throughout the winter. Even when clipped as long as you have rugged the body correctly this should be possible.
Weight Loss - depending on the type of horse you have feeding over the colder months is very important. If you have a good doer (like mine) as long as they have access to grass or roughage at all times with two solid feeds a day this should keep their condition. Obviously it depends on the level of work but if in medium/hard work, a non heating but bulking feed such as calm and condition can really help. If your horse struggles with weight during the winter months try haylage and ready grass as an alternative to hay, and look for a bulking feed and start feeding this before the weather turns colder to give the horse time to adjust to a richer diet.
Hoof Health - this is obviously not related to age but can affect any horse at any time but is more common in the winter when the ground gets wetter. Keeping hooves dry is so important, my horse suffers from thrush in the winter and I have found that using a good disinfectant in the morning when the hoof is dry and a product called 'NT Powder' in the evening when they get brought in is fantastic and doesn't cost the earth!
Investments - there are a number of products on the market that I could not go the winter without, to name a few; thermatex rugs are the best rugs for wicking away sweat and keeping your horse the perfect temperature, click heat pads for my pockets and a heated blanket for the lorry trips, Ariat muckers insulated and so warm and dry, Eqclusive Brush pack (Black) make grooming a quick and simple task with great results.
All in all the winter is tough on horses of all ages, but it is a great time for a bit of a break, or a great time to train harder for the following season. After a busy few weeks we will be having some time off in November and having some trips to the beach!