If you haven’t seen yet, Wednesday night through Friday morning, we are supposed to get a MAJOR freeze event in Colorado. They are predicting -12°F as the high in places with a -50°F windchill. This means exposed skin (human and horse alike) can get frostbite in as little as 5 minutes. Not to mention our normal concerns for colic during these drastic weather changes.
Important things to consider for your horse and equine friends:
- The ears are the most typical area in horses to be affected by frostbite. Males that drop their penis for extended periods of time can also experience frostbite on their penis. If your animal experiences frostbite, you will want to warm the area slowly with something like a warm towel or compress. In extreme circumstances, you will want to contact your veterinarian to evaluate and potentially prescribe anti-inflammatories and antibiotics or other treatment methods. Don’t rewarm frostbitten skin with direct heat, such as a stove, heat lamp, fireplace or heating pad. This can cause burns.
- Add electrolytes to your horse’s diet for a day or two prior to the weather event, as well as during it, to assist in water intake, and help stave away colic. If you don’t have an electrolyte supplement, you can utilize regular table salt. Per the National Research Council, for an 1,100lb horse you can use approximately 1.5 tablespoons or .75 ounces of loose salt.
- On the topic of water, make sure clean unfrozen (and preferably slightly heated) water is available 24/7. If this is not an option, bring buckets of warm water to your horses every couple of hours.
- Do not add feed sources that your horse is not conditioned to receiving, this can promote colic in horses. If you would like to provide a mash, turn your horse’s regular grain ration into one. Or you can consider making a mash out of hay pellets/cubes of your horse’s normal forage type. Ex: if your horse gets timothy hay, use timothy pellets or cubes to make a mash. Remember there is a recall right now on Top of the Rockies alfalfa cubes.
- Hay, hay, and more hay. Horses and equines produce heat during digestion. Keeping hay in front of them 24/7 will help keep them warm from the inside. Plus a constant source of food in the digestive tract will help prevent colic. A little extra hay spend now might save you expensive vet bills later.
- Blanket, and even double blanket! Layers work for humans, they work for horses too. Your horse will NOT be too warm Wednesday night or Thursday because it is double blanketed. If you can, use a hooded blanket. The more covered they are, the better.
- Shelter is required. And I am not talking about a tree windbreak. I am talking about a 3 sided shelter at minimum. If you absolutely cannot provide this, it is EXTRA important you provide layers and extra hay for your horse.
- Check for shivering and signs of cold. It might be miserable for us to go outside in this, but it is imperative to our horse and equine health that we regularly check on their status. Stick your hand inside their blanket, feel if they are warm or cold, see if they are shivering.
Some tips for humans during this cold snap:
- Adding surgical/latex gloves inside of your regular gloves can help keep warmth in as well as moisture out.
- Rechargeable heated items can be your best friend for cold weather like this. Some options are gloves, socks, scarves, hats, vests, jackets, pants, insoles.
- If you experience frostbite, soak affected area for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin becomes its normal color or loses its numbness. For the face or ears, apply a warm, wet washcloth. Don’t rewarm frostbitten skin with direct heat, such as a stove, heat lamp, fireplace or heating pad. This can cause burns.
- Stay active, motion creates warmth. Try not to remain immobile while outside during this extreme weather.
- Cover everything up. Your body is prone to dispersing/losing heat the most through your head and extremities. Be sure to wear a good hat, gloves, and as many layers as possible while still being able to function as needed.
- Do your best to stay dry, getting wet will harness the cold and stick it to you.
- If you don’t have a live stream camera setup on your property and want to be able to watch/check on your animals from the comfort of your house, consider adding some wifi cameras. This is what we use: https://coloradohorseforum.com/inexpensive-nanny-cams-for-your-horses/
Thanks to Dr. Kieran Smith from Vetwerx Equine South for providing some of these helpful tips for our horses and equines!
If you have other recommendations, be sure to drop them in the comments below!