How to keep your horse healthy this winter

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With cold, wet weather and more time indoors, horse owners need to be on the lookout for winter ailments – some basic preparation can help.

Mud fever

Mud fever is caused by bacteria called dermatophilus congolensis. Here are some management measures to help prevent it:

  • Rotating fields reduces the risk of churned-up land resulting in horses standing around in wet, muddy fields
  • Leave legs unclipped as a preventative measure – natural protection from the mud
  • Don’t hose your horse's legs, wait until they're dry and brush down the legs
  • Check your horse daily for signs of mud fever. Quick action will avoid serious infection. A check a day keeps the vet away!

If your horse does suffer from mud fever, here are a few tips to manage it:

  • Trim infected areas to allow them to dry quickly
  • Gently wash legs with antiseptic shampoo and lukewarm water – thoroughly towel dry afterwards
  • Feed a good supplement to help with skin and hair growth. 

Stable/field management

How to ensure effective winter stable and field management:

  • Sweep out your stable daily to prevent the build-up of dust and dirt. This will help keep respiratory problems at bay
  • While in overnight, make sure your horse has plenty to eat/do, in order to prevent eating their bed, box walking or weaving
  • If your horse wears a rug, try to brush them daily to minimise rubbing and the build-up of a dirty coat. This will help prevent skin conditions and sores
  • Try to poo-pick daily
  • Ensure water is always available; break ice in freezing conditions and make sure pipes are unfrozen
  • Check your fencing is safe and secure at all times
  • Fence-off oak trees to prevent the consumption of acorns
  • Make sure land drainage is available in case of wet weather
  • If available, ensure field shelters are accessible for harsh weather conditions.

Colic prevention

Colic in horses can range from mild discomfort to serious abdominal complications that require surgery. In order to avoid colic you should:

  • Use oils to keep good condition and joint mobility if horses are boxed longer than normal
  • Use lunchtime feeds to help maintain weight and condition
  • Double your nets so forage lasts longer, and slows the horse down while eating
  • Use a low-calorie balancer to ensure intake of vital nutrients when grass is limited and low in nutrients
  • Some types of colic can be caused by a reduction in fluid intake. This can be a particular problem in the winter, as they’re eating more hay rather than grass. Keep an eye on their fluid intake and ensure adequate clean drinking water is available
  • Do not feed directly prior to or after exercise
  • Avoid placing feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils
  • Establish a daily routine and include feed and exercise schedules to prevent stress causing colic.


If you intend to ride your horse regularly during winter, clipping their winter coat might be advisable. Cold sweat on thick and heavy winter coats can take longer to dry, posing a risk that their core body temperature is lowered and leading to an increased risk of catching a chill.

Before clipping:

  • Ensure you are in a dry, well-lit area with a power source, if required, and you are wearing suitable footwear and clothing


  • Always clip using long, equal strokes to reduce lines, frequently brush loose hair from the blades and top up on oil


  • Remove any excess hair with a soft brush and rub down clipped areas with a warm, clean, wet cloth
  • Ensure you rug your horse accordingly following the loss of the coat to keep them warm and to slow regrowth of the hair.

Related categories: Horses

Last edited: 14 January 2019 at 12:02

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