Cold Weather

Performance Horse Nutrition

During cold weather, the horse requires additional energy to maintain its internal body temperature and keep warm. The exact amount of energy depends on the severity and extent of the cold period. When environmental temperatures (including wind chill) drop below 44°F (referred to as the critical temperature), significant amounts of energy are used by the horse to maintain its internal body heat. For each 1°F decrease below the critical temperature, the horse requires a 1% increase in digestible energy to maintain a consistent body temperature. Wind chill, moisture, and coat thickness will affect the critical temperature. The horse’s thick winter coat has an insulating effect against cold and wind. If the coat becomes wet, the critical temperature will increase by 10°F. Increase the dry-matter content of the diet 24 hours prior to forecast cold conditions. Strive to keep your horse in a good body condition prior to winter months as the extra body fat provides an additional insulating effect against wind and also serves as an energy reserve. The digestion of forage produces high amounts of heat, therefore increasing hay consumption in horses in good body condition will help them stay warm and maintain weight. Increasing forage and concentrate will be necessary in horses of poor condition. Supplementing fat is beneficial to increasing the energy density of concentrates. Offer at least 9-10 gallons of warmed water daily. Keeping the water in the 50 to 70 degree farenheit range will make sure that it is not too cold to drink. Older horses and those in poor condition have additional needs during the winter. Starting them on a high caloric diet in the fall, such as a high-fat, beet-pulp based feed can help them maintain weight during frigid weather. Look for one with a fat level of 7% or more, as it will provide the extra calories needed to keep these horses from losing weight during the winter.

« Back to Glossary Index