Cold Weather Care

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TNT

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Hi,

We are new miniature horse owners. Do you have any advice about cold/snowy weather care?

Thanks!
 

chandab

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That's a pretty general question. Is there anything in particular you want to know?

The only thing I can think of off the top of my head: make sure they are drinking (some don't drink enough when the water is too cold); when the temps drop increase hay to help them stay warm (the digestion of hay/fiber creates heat and helps warm them); be sure to feel them (topline and ribs) to make sure they are holding their weight (winter woolies make it difficult to see weight loss or even gain, they tend to look chubby in winter due to all the hair); guess that's all I can think of at the moment.
 

Marty

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I always provide warm water. They don't like cold water in the winter and they need to keep drinking to keep from colicing so warm water here is a key factor in winter care. I also offer soaked beet pulp in warm water daily also in addition to their two feedings a day. Good quality grass hay is a must and last but not least, shelter, shelter, shelter, out of the winds and to keep them dry.
 

Lori W

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Since feed and water have been discussed already, I'll provide my opinion about being outside in the cold,,, As long as they're healthy and have a good thick furry haircoat, they can certainly be outside in cold weather. Don't blanket them unless they're old and/or have a poor haircoat or are clipped. A three sided shed or other windbreak is a benefit (really, a necessity) to provide some respite where they can get out of the rain or wind. Since coyotes are a problem in our area, we put our horses in the barn overnight and back outside during the day.

Because I work and he's retired, my hubby often feeds our horses for me and - bless his heart - he leaves them in their stalls during the day if the weather is bad (blowing snow, cold rain, wind chill in the teens). I'd put them out, at least for a few hours, but since he often cleans stalls, too, I'm certainly not going to complain!
 
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mshasta88

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I live at 9000 ft in the mountains with 8 minis. Everyone so far has great information. Mine do great in the cold but I due lock them up at night only to keep them out of reach of lions, bears and coyotes. If it wasn’t for the extra predators around my house then I would just let them have access to a barn/windbreak. I don’t think any of us could stress enough to make sure you feel your minis because they may look fat with their winter coats but this can be deceiving.
 

Merogsrha

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Can definetly attest to the fact of FEELING your mini's reguraly. I just got in a rescue who appears to be of healthy weight - until you touch her. Spine, Hips, Shoulders, Sternum are ALL easily felt and pronounced. Her winter woolies though give her a nice rounded, "plump" look... If you didnt touch her, you'd think she was on the plus side.
 

targetsmom

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Lots of great information here already, especially on the blog, but one thing I didn't see mentioned was ICE! We often get ice where we are, and it is difficult for people and minis to walk on. We put down used bedding (with the poop removed), which for us is broken down pellets/sawdust, to cover any ice. Used kitty litter or fireplace ashes might also work, but we know the bedding is safe. We start stockpiling it about now, either in piles or containers. We let the minis make their own paths through the snow, which they do quite well with the snow depths we usually have around here.

Most of our minis have heated buckets in their stalls or heated tubs in their runs but for those we don't trust with electrical cords, we make insulated buckets by putting different sized buckets, one inside the other, with insulation in between. If needed, we use a regular carabiner to hang it. We also will add very warm water to top off buckets at bedtime. This gives them warm water to drink and keeps the insulated buckets from freezing.
 

TNT

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Thanks for all the helpful answers. We keep them in a small barn at night and they have heated water buckets and plenty of hay. They seemed to love the last snow fall.

Have a Merry Christmas!
 

Christine Storie

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How do you make the insulated water bowl. Thank you

Lots of great information here already, especially on the blog, but one thing I didn't see mentioned was ICE! We often get ice where we are, and it is difficult for people and minis to walk on. We put down used bedding (with the poop removed), which for us is broken down pellets/sawdust, to cover any ice. Used kitty litter or fireplace ashes might also work, but we know the bedding is safe. We start stockpiling it about now, either in piles or containers. We let the minis make their own paths through the snow, which they do quite well with the snow depths we usually have around here.

Most of our minis have heated buckets in their stalls or heated tubs in their runs but for those we don't trust with electrical cords, we make insulated buckets by putting different sized buckets, one inside the other, with insulation in between. If needed, we use a regular carabiner to hang it. We also will add very warm water to top off buckets at bedtime. This gives them warm water to drink and keeps the insulated buckets
 

MyBarakah

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I personally like to feed some alfalfa with the grass hay they get, especially in the cold months...helps them want to drink more. When water is cold they don't like to drink as much and that's what you have to watch out for is colic...I have always had good luck with the alfalfa. I keep my water tanks thawed out with tank or propane heaters. I don't like the electric bill but it's just how it is.
 

Marsha Cassada

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I also use a heated water tank. Just be sure the power source is GFI. Miniature horses don't need blankets in the winter. There are several articles about how their hair works to repel moisture and keep them insulated. I used to have concerns after driving when my horse was sweaty, but he just has a good roll, shake, and then on to the business of grazing. Horse folk assured me this is fine! As long as horses have plenty of hay, they actually seem to enjoy the cold weather. The warmth generated by digestion also helps to keep them warm and healthy.
 

Willow Flats

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All of the above! My mare has a very thick coat already and looks HUGE, but after feeling her ribs I have had to up her food. If you don't check the ribs and top line it is so easy to be deceived. Everything fits tighter on her now, even her halter with all the hair on her chin! I've had to make adjustments on her harness to increase the sizing and also I was training her with sleigh bells today and when I went to put on her surcingle I had to increase that quite a bit, but all the while she is actually thinner.

Why is it when I am introducing something new like the sleigh bells did the neighbor have to come to the pasture fence line behind the shrubs and trees and fire up the weed eater? She was going alright with the bells, but the two together sent her over the edge. We worked through it but she almost got away from me. We got a lot of good exercise going back and forth near the fence line though.
 

Marsha Cassada

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All of the above! My mare has a very thick coat already and looks HUGE, but after feeling her ribs I have had to up her food. If you don't check the ribs and top line it is so easy to be deceived. Everything fits tighter on her now, even her halter with all the hair on her chin! I've had to make adjustments on her harness to increase the sizing and also I was training her with sleigh bells today and when I went to put on her surcingle I had to increase that quite a bit, but all the while she is actually thinner.

Why is it when I am introducing something new like the sleigh bells did the neighbor have to come to the pasture fence line behind the shrubs and trees and fire up the weed eater? She was going alright with the bells, but the two together sent her over the edge. We worked through it but she almost got away from me. We got a lot of good exercise going back and forth near the fence line though.
Sleigh bells are pretty challenging. Glad you made it through!
 

Church

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I'm getting worried now that my minis are not heavy enough for the oncoming winter. I'm in central Ontario, so it hits about -20/25 c at its worse during Jan-March. I have an open ended stable block, with their stall inside. It does benefit from a roll down garage door at the end, so if it gets really insanely cold, at least I could pull that down at night, but I do plan to turn them out during the day, as their previous owner had been doing. They also have a large shelter in their paddock as somewhere to avoid the bad weather during the day. I bring them in at night due to the coyotes here. On to my enquiry about "feeling' them. I am not happy they're plump enough. Their withers, I feel, are boney, though their bellies are plump, but they're very hairy already. They're on hay primarily, a mix of timothy and alfalfa. How do I plump them up even more so that they're building muscle and fat, and not just full bellies. I am learning as I go. I had a hiatus from horses for nearly 30 years. I've just got back into it, and stated with these two girls when I took them on 8 months ago. Any supplement food suggestions, and any making them more active suggestions please. They are not very walking in hand friendly unfortunately, though not as feral as they were when I first got them! And they've never been broken for pulling anything. So my options are limited on how to 'build' them up. I just don't want them standing around bored for 4 months of cold winter. Thanks.
 

chandab

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I'm getting worried now that my minis are not heavy enough for the oncoming winter. I'm in central Ontario, so it hits about -20/25 c at its worse during Jan-March. I have an open ended stable block, with their stall inside. It does benefit from a roll down garage door at the end, so if it gets really insanely cold, at least I could pull that down at night, but I do plan to turn them out during the day, as their previous owner had been doing. They also have a large shelter in their paddock as somewhere to avoid the bad weather during the day. I bring them in at night due to the coyotes here. On to my enquiry about "feeling' them. I am not happy they're plump enough. Their withers, I feel, are boney, though their bellies are plump, but they're very hairy already. They're on hay primarily, a mix of timothy and alfalfa. How do I plump them up even more so that they're building muscle and fat, and not just full bellies. I am learning as I go. I had a hiatus from horses for nearly 30 years. I've just got back into it, and stated with these two girls when I took them on 8 months ago. Any supplement food suggestions, and any making them more active suggestions please. They are not very walking in hand friendly unfortunately, though not as feral as they were when I first got them! And they've never been broken for pulling anything. So my options are limited on how to 'build' them up. I just don't want them standing around bored for 4 months of cold winter. Thanks.
What feeds do you have access to? Forage alone is not enough, even the easy keepers need at least a vitamin mineral supplement to supply what forage lacks. What to feed will depend on what is available to you, and how easy of a keeper your horses are in general. For warmth, just more hay is suggested as the digesting of fiber is what helps warm up a horse; but a good supplement is still a good thing to add to the diet.
 

chandab

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Feel the ribs, not the withers or belly.
Spine and hips are a good place to feel as well.
Thin along the spine and hips is usually a protein issue; thin in the ribs is usually a calories issue; and of course you can be thin in all areas, and need to address protein and calories.
 

Ryan Johnson

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In such cold conditions, I would be adding grain to their diets. As mentioned above, what do you have access too over in Canada. ?

My little ones have free choice hay throughout winter !
 

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