Seasonal (Winter)

Does my horse need a blanket when it is cold? How else can I keep him warm?

If you're worried about your horse getting cold, the best way to deal with the problem is from the inside out -- more hay = more warmth. If your horse is grazing a pasture in addition to getting fed morning and night, it won't be cold. If the pasture is running out of grass, ask your vet how much and what kind of hay they would recommend to make up for the pasture. High-fiber, low-protein hay will keep your horse warm without making them enormously fat - but talk to your vet before you change anything about your horse's diet. Also, check out our Fall/Winter 2007 newsletter article "Coping with Cold.

Why is my horse's urine red in the snow? Is it bloody?

If you have been around horses in the winter, you have probably seen red spots in the snow or ice where horses have urinated. Normal horse urine sometimes turns red or brown after standing for a while. This is due to the presence of oxidizing agents termed "pyrocatechines".

We receive a number of calls each winter from concerned owners who have noted this phenomenon. Rarely, if ever, have the owners actually seen the horses while they were urinating. The red spots, while alarming, are a normal oxidative process that occurs after the urine has been voided. It is rare for a horse to pass blood in the urine and when present is almost always accompanied by some abnormal void behavior. Frequent urination and straining are the most common indications of a disease in the lower urinary tract. When in doubt, the best way to determine if blood is present is to collect a fresh urine sample and see for yourself that the urine is normal in color when voided. Be careful, and good luck!

What should I feed during cold weather?

Many horse owners feed extra grain during cold spells in an attempt to help their horses stave off the cold.  While extra grain seems logical, feeding more hay will do much more to help your horse keep warm.

Grain is composed of starch or carbohydrates which are broken down by digestive enzymes and absorbed as sugars in the small intestine.  The resulting increase in blood sugar provides energy for muscle contraction and powers most other body systems. Roughage (hay), on the other hand, is composed of more complex carbohydrates that resist enzymatic digestion in the small intestine.  These large molecules are passed into the large intestine and become the food for a variety of bacteria and protozoa.  If you have ever stuck your hand into a pile of fresh grass clippings, you understand that heat is a significant by-product of fermentation. This same process occurs in the colon of your horse. While heat is considered a waste product when feeding a horse that is working or lactating, it is very beneficial in maintaining body heat during periods of cold weather.

Feeding additional grain will help your horse maintain weight and give him more energy to shiver, but feeding extra hay will cause additional heat production from digestion.  So this winter when one of our notorious arctic cold fronts sweeps into the valley, feed him his usual amount of grain and throw out an extra flake or two of hay. It will help his body generate extra heat to keep warm.

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