1) Groom as little as possible
Why-If the horse isn't working hard, it's important not to remove its waxy, protective coating next to the skin. That layer helps keep them warm and waterproof in the cold, wet months of winter.
2) When it gets colder, feed more
Why-The colder it gets the higher the horse's energy requirement is to maintain its body temperature. Feed more with grass hay as opposed to more grain to reduce the risk of colic.
3) Have a plan for your manure
Why-If you have several horses and each one is producing about 50lbs of manure a day, you need definitely need a plan. Determine whether you'll be collecting and then spreading your manure or whether you'll create a compost. It has to go somewhere to keep down flies and keep your horses' living area clean and healthy.
4) Monitor water supply
Why-The cold mountain weather can often get below zero at night. Whether your water comes from a spring or whether you have to fill a trough, it's important to have a constant supply of fresh, unfrozen water for your horses.
5) Check horses for condition and injuries daily
Why-Self-explanatory. Weight loss is important to catch early. Injuries need to be addressed as soon as possible.
6) Facility/barn/tack/pasture maintenance
Why-Rail and fence maintenance, tack cleaning and stall cleaning all help to keep you and your animals safe.
7) Watch your weather
Why-Colorado weather is completely unpredictable. If you feed with big hay bales, you'll want to plan ahead of a snowstorm. You'll also need to plan your plowing so the spring melt flows into the areas you want.
For more great tips and a month-by-month guide for taking care of your horses, check out Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac and blog.
Do you feed your horses with round bales? I recently bought another round, hay feeder for our horses here at Elk River Guest Ranch. But before I did so, Scott found such a good (and surprising) article about feeders that I had to share it with you.
The University of Minnesota Extension office performed a study about different types of feeders "to determine hay waste, hay intake, horse weight change and economics of nine round-bale feeders and a no-feeder control during horse feeding." According to their results, I didn't buy the feeder that resulted in the least hay waste, but I made my decision in order to balance both the hay waste and cost of the feeder.
The most interesting results from the study?
1) Not using a feeder resulted in 57% hay waste.
2) Feeders that are most restrictive resulted in less hay waste (5-11%).
3) Feeders that are circular, such as the one above that we bought, results in more hay waste than a more covered/restrictive feeder, but the designs of different circular feeders don't make much difference (13-19%).
4) Feeder design doesn't affect horse intake.
5) Not using a feeder resulted in herd weight loss (due to hay spoilage from defecation, urination and trampling of hay).
So, before you put your hay out in the pasture or pen for your horses to eat, definitely do a little research to find a cost-effective option for keeping your horses healthy. As the study demonstrated, even the feeders that wasted the most hay (almost 33%) paid for themselves within 20 months. And, the best, most restrictive feeders contributed a 2-month payback--well worth the investment!
To read the study for yourself, follow THIS LINK.