Horses in Winter – 5 Helpful Care Tips

Having horses in winter doesn’t have to be complicated.

No matter how hot or cold the weather, a horse’s basic needs generally don’t change.

Food, water and shelter are always important, but what does change is how you provide it.

In most climates, winter presents some unique challenges and can require a bit of extra effort.

Horses in Winter - 5 Helpful Care Tips

Here’s a list of five helpful tips for horses in winter to help you focus your attention on what’s really important:

1. Water, Water Everywhere!

Water is undoubtedly the most important part in your horses diet.

Without regular access to drinkable water, a horse can loose weight rapidly and puts them at risk for impaction colic. Not something you want to mess around with!

It probably goes without saying, but snow is not a suitable alternative. To ensure your horse has plenty of water you need to check their buckets frequently as the temperature drops near freezing.

To save time, insulated or heated buckets and submersible tank heaters can help extend their supply, but still need to be inspected regularly. Providing free-choice salt can also encourage your horse to drink more often.

If you’re curious (or in a hurry):
💲 This specific brand of submersible tank heater is popular with my readers, and my personal favorite!

If you get to know your horse’s routine, you might find they drink more at certain times of the day. This can help plan your schedule to insure you’re there when they need it.

Horses in Winter - 5 Helpful Care Tips
2. Focus on Feed

The old rule ‘feed little and often’ is more important than ever in the winter. Not only does feed provide your horse with energy and fuel to keep warm, but it also relieves boredom.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  Preparing for Your First Horse Show

The colder the weather, the more feed your horse will require (especially seniors) and the safest way to meet this is to increase their hay consumption.

Knowing how much to feed can be a guessing game, and you must factor in age, metabolism, amount of work they’re doing, and how much time they’re spending outdoors.

To keep tabs on your horses condition it’s important to take a moment each day and feel under their blanket or through their winter coat to insure ribs and hips aren’t becoming more defined.

Slow Feeder Nets are a great option to have hay available 24/7.

If hay alone is not doing the trick you may need to consider supplementing. There are many feeds and supplements out there designed to increase weight, but my personal favorite is coconut oil.

(you can read more here: Coconut Oil for Horses – Top 10 uses)

3. Suitable Shelter

Most healthy horses with a full winter coat are able to withstand winter conditions with minimal shelter.

However if you horse is clipped, a senior, difficult keeper, or if the weather conditions are extreme you will need a three sided run-in shelter, or in some cases, indoor stabling.

Always ensure that there is adequate space in a run-in, so even the least dominant horse will have shelter.

My horses have always preferred weathering out a storm in the trees versus their shelter, except in freezing rain. In most cases, horses seem to know best!

Horses in Winter - 5 Helpful Care Tips
4. Air Care

Keeping a horse snug and warm in a barn certainly has its advantages, but dealing with air flow can be a challenge.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  Springtime Body Clipping: Can You, or Should You, Clip Your Horse in the Spring?

Too much and your horse can get chilled: not enough and stuffy air can trigger allergies and increase the risk of respiratory infections.

Cleanliness is key, and keeping urine-soaked bedding out of the barn is the first step. Proper ventilation is also important and can be adjusted depending on the temperature.

If the barn feels stuffy to you, it’s time to get some air flowing.

5. Blanket Blunders

Despite how cold you may feel outdoors, chances are your unclipped horse won’t require a blanket.

In fact, it can do more harm than good by flattening the hair and decreasing natural insulation, and just creates extra work for you.

If you’re riding your horse and need to clip, then make a plan to blanket appropriately. Having clean, well fitted blankets on hand in a variety of weights will make your job easier.

Check blankets daily, and several times a day if the weather changes, to ensure your horses is neither sweaty or shivering.

Much like dressing for winter weather, layering is usually the best option and do yourself a favor and invest in high quality blankets. They’ll last longer and save a lot of hassle in the long run.

Riding outdoors this winter? Check out Choosing the Right Quarter Sheet.

For more tips see Top 5 Cold Weather Hazards for Horses 

Here’s a review of caring for horses in winter:

  • Have water available at all times (heat if necessary)
  • Adjust feeding schedule as needed
  • Provide suitable shelter
  • Monitor air flow
  • Blanket if necessary

Horses in Winter - 5 Helpful Care Tips



  1. Amanda Granlund
    November 7, 2015 / 8:35 pm

    Thanks for the winter tips. The cold weather is not far off and I'm getting my blankets ready for the big freeze. They say when it comes, it's going to be a hard winter!

  2. Unknown
    November 16, 2016 / 9:05 am

    i live in Austrlia, and we've just finished winter here and it was flood works everywhere and rugs on almost every day and then doubled up at night because it's freezing in aus,but now its rugs off knid of weather 😀

  3. Unknown
    February 16, 2018 / 4:45 am

    I had no idea that coconut oil can help keep a horse healthy. It seems like a good thing to be aware of when you need to take care of horses. I would hate to have an unhealthy horse. It might be good to talk to a vet about what other things horse like to eat.

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