I know a lot of controversy takes place over the care of horses in winter. While much of the east coast and north parts of the US and Canada remain covered in snow and deep in cold temperatures, those of us who care for our horses ourselves find particularly hard work in front of us.

While it IS more work to truck water, keep it open, feed more hay, keep the stalls bedded and mucked out, it is worth it to me to make sure my horses are maintaining weight and keeping muscle in the cold weather.

Some people keep horses out in sheds, with or without blankets; a lot prefer to keep horses out in all weathers provided they have a sturdy, windproof shelter in place and open water for them. In fact, I would bet that most of the time, horses are out in cold weather without any problems, provided they have shelter and water.

I have both sheds and a barn with stalls, (which I think provides a lot more shelter) but restricts their movement. Horses need A) hay and B) movement to stay warm. So there is both pro and con to keeping horses in and out in bad weather. For one, it’s easier for me to have them in during a blizzard, because it’s easier to feed and water from inside the barn — there’s no struggling through snow drifts to throw hay, or dig out frozen water tanks. And it’s really cute to have all their heads over the stall doors, nickering in the morning for breakfast at me! 🙂 (Until you think of all that poop you gotta scoop in those stalls!)

I also have experimented over the years, with both methods (shed or barn). I think it also depends on the age and fitness level of your horses, too.  Here’s some things I’ve sort of observed with the in-or-out question during bad winter weather:

  • Really young horses rather like cold weather and enjoy being out together.
  • Older horses seem to just stand and wait for food all day and they are the ones I like to have blanketed, warm, and in the barn away from wind chills and blowing snow.
  • Horses that are particularly low on the herd totem pole, who can’t get into the shed with the others, or horses that are aggressive toward other horses and keep them from accessing the shelter, are put in the barn in a stall.
  • If I have a horse that is clipped, I make sure they have a neck rug, as that adds a lot of warmth, I think, to a regular blanket.
  • When in doubt – let them out! But monitor the temperature and windchill. If it gets below a certain temperature I bring them in – generally under 20 degrees F.

What’s your method? Do you keep your horses out, or in during bad weather, and why? I’d be interested in your responses. What have you observed about your horses and the weather?

Holly

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