How safe is snow for my horse?
That depends - mostly on how sensible you and your horse are. Most of us have this romantic notion that snow and horses are meant to be together… and sometimes this is true! It’s fun and cool to see horses rolling, playing, and pawing in the snow. But every now and again, some real issues crop up that can harm your horse. And if the snow if really deep with lots of road closures - your Vet may not be able to get to you.
The first snow of 2017 was a dud - except for the patches of ice. Even small amounts can be tricky.
The hazards of snow and your horse include:
Ice is not your friend.
- Tripping and twisting and tweaking legs. This depends on how deep the snow is, how silly your horse acts in the snow, and just some bad luck. It’s exhausting to walk through snow that’s a foot deep or more - and it’s also tricky to pick up your legs - which can lead to injuries!
- Snow hides stuff. Frozen ground that has hoof imprints, tire marks, and all sorts of other rock solid topographical challenges can damage your horse’s hooves. Bruises are a real possibility. Snow also hides ice - and I think we can all relate to biting it by slipping on ice. A horse going down is a terrifying thought.
Even barefoot hooves can get "snow high heels".
- Snow can create frozen high heeled shoes for your horse. A recipe for disaster - including torn soft tissues and broken bones. Snow can be “wet” or “dry” or somewhere in between, and at some point the snow can pack into your horse’s hooves. Barefoot horses are not immune to this!
- You can get special snow inserts from your farrier, you can get all sorts of studs and borium on your horse’s shoes, or you can use oil up the hoof and be smart about letting your horse walk around in the snow. For climates that only see the occasional snow, you probably have little need for the snow pads or borium, so keep some oily goodness on hand. Grooming oils or cooking sprays often work. Hoof picks hung on stall doors and paddock gates allow you to do some hoof snow picking easily.
Grooming oils can create a hoof surface that is less likely to collect snow.
Borrow the PDZ from your horse to sprinkle around sidewalks and paths. It won't turn to slush like cat litter and salts.
The benefits of snow for horses include:
- Bright chrome! Snow is nature’s stain remover.
- Cooled hooves and legs. A horse that struggles with laminitis, bruises, or soft tissue injuries may benefit from standing in snow.
That's a lot of snow!
- Wonderful photo opportunities!
Have fun in the winter snow and be safe out there!