Can horses cope with sudden cold weather?
Horses can survive and even thrive in what we consider to be very inhospitable conditions, but they do need plenty of feed to fuel them and keep them warm.
It is not unusual for horses to cough in the winter. Horses evolved as grazers, out on the grassy, treeless plains. They had limitless fresh air, food with a high water content and ate with their heads down. Animals adapt over millennia to their environment. Horses have developed an excellent digestive system and massive microbial population to cope with the large amounts of fibrous food they eat. They have not developed a method of coping with dust and spores as they have not in their evolution been exposed to these things. With their heads low down, any mucus in their respiratory tract can easily drain, so they have not needed to have a system that can clear the airways upwards. By now you will see why some horses have breathing issues when they are stabled. Here are a few ideas to help: ï¿½ Feed from ground level or nearly so ï¿½ hay, haylage, short feed ï¿½ all of it! ï¿½ Avoid any feed or bedding that is likely to have or develop fungal spores such as hay baled damp, straw, any type of deep litter bedding. ï¿½ Feed soaked feeds. ï¿½ Steam or soak hay (for up to one hour). ï¿½ Groom your horse outside. ï¿½ Take the horse out when you muck out and keep him out for at least half an hour after you've finished to allow any dust to settle. ï¿½ Keep your horse outside after work until his breathing rate is back to normal ï¿½ around 10 breathes a minute. During this time, he can graze with advantage. The more air he breathes, the more dust he is inhaling. ï¿½ When travelling consider placement of haynets and length of ropes ï¿½ tying a horse up short with his head stuffed in a haynet wonï¿½t help his breathing. ï¿½ Exploit every opportunity to take your horse out of the stable, however briefly ï¿½ and ideally, for longer! ï¿½ Maximise ventilation. The only time the top door should be shut is if a blizzard is blowing snow directly into the stable. Some people feel garlic can help horsesï¿½ wind but in moderation and not continuously. Organic Cider Vinegar finds favour with many people for a whole range of issues, not least of all wind associated ones. Linseed, such as Instant Linseed, can be soothing and help maintain a healthy lining to the airways. If a stable cough is not responding, or is combined with lethargy, a raised temperature, nasty discharge or the horse is off colour, consult your vet.