Winter Stable Management

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Skin Health In Winter
Many horses harbor skin infections under their heavy winter coats. The most common of these is “rain rot,” a Dermatophilus infection. Your main weapons in preventing this problem are solid nutrition, grooming and keeping the horse dry.

Horses that are losing weight, or are short on essential fats, amino acids and trace minerals, have weakened immunity and are more prone to skin infections. Allowing coats to become and stay matted or mud-covered creates pockets of high heat, humidity, low oxygen that favor growth of this organism.

The horse should be thoroughly curried and brushed or vacuumed to prevent this. If the horse gets wet to the skin, towel him dry as much as possible, then cover with a cooler to wick moisture to the surface. Horses with dense coats may benefit most from using a hair dryer to get them thoroughly dried out.

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Let There Be Air
Closing the barn up tight to avoid water freezing, in well-meaning but misguided attempts to keep the horses warm, is a big mistake. Healthy horses that are dry, protected from wind and have enough to eat can withstand temperatures as low as 40?° below zero.

A tightly closed barn heats up quickly from the animals’ body heat. Moisture from breathing and urine builds in the air, providing an environment favorable to high levels of circulating viruses and bacteria. Respiratory-tract irritants like dust, mold spores and ammonia build to high concentrations.

Bacteria, such as Streps, E. coli and Klebsiella, and Herpes (Rhinopneumonitis) viruses colonize the respiratory tract of healthy horses. Although they normally don’t cause problems, the combination of increased concentration of organisms with high levels of respiratory-tract irritants can combine to overwhelm the horse’s defense mechanisms.