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Betsy Carter’s Horse Scene: Monitor your horse during cold snaps

HOLY FROZEN mackerel! What’s going on with this cold weather? It was 13 degrees Wednesday morning. It feels like I went to sleep in Virginian and was cruelly transported to North Dakota.

Riding will be very difficult or nonexistent until the weather warms up again. Even indoor arenas feel like giant refrigerators in this kind of cold. In the meantime, it is important to check on your horse because our horses are not used to this brutal weather, either.

The most important thing to check on is your horse’s drinking water. This is especially important if your horse stays outside all the time. It will be difficult, but you must make sure its outside water container is filled with fresh, hot water every day.

The hot water melts the ice on the water and will provide it with warm water to drink until the liquid grows cold and freezes again. Horses really seem to enjoy a warm drink of water in really cold weather. If you cannot fill the outside containers with warm or hot water, then cold water will have to do. At least it is not ice.

You might also want to put a blanket on your horse, even if it is not clipped. If your horse has been clipped, you may want to add another blanket. Check under the blanket periodically to see if it is warm enough or too warm.

It would be really bad during the cold weather for your horse to sweat under its blanket because then it would be really cold. If your horse has a place to get in out of the wind, it may be warm enough without a blanket if it has not been clipped.

Also, check your horse’s legs and pasterns for cuts. The ice in water puddles can cut a horse’s pasterns. And if a horse has to walk, trot or canter over pockmarked frozen ground, it may take a misstep and inadvertently hit a hoof against the inside of the other leg or on the bulb of its heel and cut itself. Cuts may not be readily seen because of a long winter coat, so you must check closely.

Betsy Carter can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; or by fax at 540/373-8455.

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