Cold Snap Worries

By Terry Golson

Early Sunday morning it started to snow. Which turned to freezing rain, pelting sleet, cold rain, and more snow. The horses, of course, stayed snug in their stalls. Monday morning was clear, but this was the temperature, and it wasn’t expected to rise more than a few degrees all day. With the winds, the wind chill was way below 0.


The horses would stay indoors a second day. Scooter had the same idea.


But whereas it’s fine for a little dog to laze about, it’s not so good for horses, who are designed to walk for many miles daily. For their circulatory and digestive systems to work properly, they need to move.

So, although our horses were comfortable and had fresh water and piles of hay in front of them, we boarders bundled up to take them for a walk.


It was slippery on the way to the indoor.


We are quite spoiled here. The arena is heated! Which meant it was almost 20°F. None of us shed our coats.


Tonka was pleased that his good friend Deej was trudging around with him. A little nose-snuffling visit was in order.


But, then something happened that changed my mood. Only a few minutes into our walk, Tonka stopped, reached around, and scratched his side with his nose. Biting at one’s flanks is a tell-tale sign of colic. He was otherwise bright-eyed. He’d been eating hay when I’d arrived at the barn. Still. I was on high alert. A moment later, he did it again. I took off his coat. I scratched him where he’d been biting. He seemed to like that. Perhaps he was just itchy?


Fifteen minutes later, Tonka pooped. We horse people pay attention to poop. Sometimes we celebrate it. This was one of those times.


We walked for almost an hour. More than two miles. Tonka looked and acted fine. No more biting his sides. Still…

When it’s cold sometimes horses don’t drink enough. Back at the barn, I made a slurry of hot water, grain and carrots. I wanted to keep things flowing through him. Tonka was delighted that I was being a worry wart.


There was no way to be tidy about it, but perhaps he didn’t have to splash so much?


At the least it alleviated the boredom of being indoors.

I left, but the barn manager kept a close eye on Tonka. She reported that he was eating, peeing and pooping normally. I returned, anyway, late afternoon. The barn was peaceful. There are benefits of being a worrier. You get moments like this.


Tonka and I carefully walked back to the arena. We walked about a mile. He didn’t poop, but he looked fine. Worrying and walking is always better than the alternative.


Are you living in a deep freeze? What are you doing to keep your horse moving and healthy?

6 thoughts on “Cold Snap Worries

  • nikki negrea

    I put salt in April’s food during the winter, to encourage her to drink. It seems to work. Soupy feed is always appreciated. Carefully counting poop for frequency (during long trips, at shows, etc) helps keep an eye on gut mobility. Too hard, small or infrequent poop is a sign to monitor health more closely. Good luck with Tonka! It’s 10 degrees here, and we don’t have a heated arena. Lucky you!

  • Kim

    I double blanketed my horses that day and sent them out for about 45 minutes while I did barn chores. I offer warm water during the cold spells, and they really do drink more when it’s warmed for them.

  • Shaste

    I also offer warm water (heated buckets are pretty affordable compared to colic!) Also add salt to their feed. I don’t usually go the mash route unless I’m seeing a change in poo consistency.

    I also do a monthly maintenance dose of psyllium year round, good preventative medicine if your horse eats from the ground.

  • Gin

    Any sudden big drop in temps are a concern with horses, “colic weather”. Any time a horse starts looking at his side or unusual pawing or unusual rolling is a real scare for horse owners. I’m glad Tonka is OK.
    I do all the things the other people posted, adding salt, tank heaters, and lots of turnout. We used to salt our square bales as we stacked it in the barn. That really helped with the drinking issues in the winter and they loved it.
    It was 40 degrees this morning after raining all night, and now the wind is really blowing strong and it’s 25 degrees. At least the rain washed away what was left of the snow.

  • chickencarol

    I love the photo of Tonker with the mash on his face. It reminds me of my chickens when I give them yogurt as a treat. The darker feathered girls have white yogurt spots flicked over themselves.

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