4)-How to look after your horse through the winter

Ellen Collinson Equine Iridologist and Herbalist

The obvious thing to make sure of in the winter is that your horse has enough food to keep him healthy and warm, and good quality hay or haylage is the number one priority, in fact if your horse is not working hay or haylage is quite sufficient to feed, you can always add some carrots, turnip or apples, but if they are not in work there is no need to feed concentrated ration, in fact the winter is natures way of giving wild animals a detox, Unless the ground is covered in deep snow wild horses/ponies will find enough forage grazing to sustain them through the winter, yes they will lose weight but when the spring grass comes they will soon regain it. If in the wild horses/ponies didn’t lose weight and have this natural detox, in the spring /summer they would suffer from the same ailments that domesticated ponies suffer from, namely Laminitis and sweet itch. I am not advocating starving your horses or ponies but as I said if they are not working just feed hay/haylage.

Next make sure they are either in a field with good shelter, if there is no natural shelter then make sure they are suitably rugged or have a field shelter, also make sure they have a good supply of water, often this freezes up in the winter, so ice will need breaking at least twice daily. Water is always essential.

A small feed to include Seaweeds provides good all the minerals and trace elements they need, including amino acids and some vitamins. Alternatively a good lick / block for horses comes from a company called Tithebarn Limited, they are in Cheshire, they also sell excellent chelated minerals for adding to feed where necessary, called Turfmin plus. Ensure any lick is NON MOLASSED or with NO ADDED SUGAR. The seaweeds need only be fed twice a week as too much is as bad as too little.

For horses that are in work depending on how hard they are working, good clean soaked whole oats are a good feed, contrary to modern belief they do not cause temperament problems if fed correctly, ie amount in ratio to work and soaked in cold water (see article 6 of these herb pages, -oats page), Boiled or micronized barley is fattening and beneficial to horses in hard work; but is also very heating to the blood and should not be fed to horses in no or light work or already in good condition. Alternatives or as well as the oats, soaked beet pulp and / or soaked grass nuts are beneficial for some horses in winter. Some horses will not eat grass nuts ( must be soaked) in summer but wioll eat them in winter when the grass is negligible or winter turn out is totally unavailable. this 'porridge' consistency food

is ideal for older horses and ponies with dental issues or teeth missing and unable to eat much or no hay.
And of course the good old fashioned but much maligned bran mash twice a week to keep their bowels working properly, but of course this is frowned upon now by the ‘nutritionists’. Soaked whole Oats are also considerably cheaper than compound processed feeds and in this economic climate that can to be taken into consideration.

Mud fever is no longer a ‘winter’ ailment as we seem to often have as much mud in the summer, however if your horse is susceptible one way to treat it is to buy a sachet of Virkon, dilute in a bucket of water and wash the scabs well, do not rinse off, but towel dry then bandage with wool bandages, once the legs are dry rub a good barrier cream all over the area, Protocon is a well known horse cream but I have always found a good udder cream for cows is usually a lot cheaper and works very well.

Coughs and colds are another problem, a home made treatment for these are to mix 1 tablespoon of Honey with 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, mix over low heat, then dose with a syringe three times a day, this will loosen any mucus, if the problem persists then a course of Respiratory herbs would be beneficial.