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Winter Horse Care Guide: Preventing and Treating Cold-Weather Ailments

Winter Horse Care Guide: Preventing and Treating Cold-Weather Ailments

In the world of equine care, understanding and addressing cold-weather ailments is crucial for ensuring the health and well-being of our four-legged companions. With low temperatures, horses become more susceptible to various conditions affecting their hooves, skin, respiratory system, and overall vitality. 

This blog will explore common cold-weather ailments in horses, discussing their causes, symptoms, and homeopathic solutions. Additionally, we'll delve into the best ways to prevent these issues. Let's embark on a journey to comprehend the challenges horses face in colder months and learn practical strategies to keep them in optimal condition.


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Common Cold-Weather Ailments in Horses

The following are twelve health issues in horses that are common during winter:

1. Respiratory Infections:
  • What it is: Like a cold or flu in humans, horses can get infections in their lungs and airways.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Cold air and close contact with other horses can spread infections.
  • Symptoms: Respiratory infections can manifest as coughing, nasal discharge, increased respiratory rate, and lethargy.
2. Winter Colitis:
  • What it is: Winter colitis is a type of colic that can occur in cold weather. 
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Changes in diet, reduced water intake due to cold water temperatures, and other winter-related factors can contribute to colic in horses during the winter.
  • Symptoms: Signs include pawing, rolling, reduced appetite, looking at the belly, and signs of discomfort.


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3. Lameness:
  • What it is: Lameness means a horse has difficulty moving or walking normally.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Cold weather can make joints stiff, and icy or uneven ground can cause slips and injuries.
  • Symptoms: Signs of lameness include limping, reluctance to move, and changes in gait.
4. Dehydration:
  • What it is: Not having enough water in the body.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Horses might not feel like drinking as much when it's cold, leading to dehydration.
  • Symptoms: Sunken eyes, tacky gums, reduced skin elasticity, and dark urine are indicators of dehydration.

Two horses drinking water.

5. Frostbite:
  • What it is: Like when human skin freezes, a horse's skin or extremities can freeze, causing damage.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Exposure to cold wind or wet conditions can lead to frostbite, especially in areas with less fur.
  • Symptoms: Pale or discolored skin, swelling, and pain in affected areas are common signs of frostbite.


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6. Hoof Problems:
  • What it is: Issues with the horse's hooves, like cracking or infections.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Wet and cold conditions can make hooves more prone to problems. Mud and snow can also accumulate, leading to infections.
  • Symptoms: Lameness, swelling, and visible signs of damage or infection around the hooves.
7. Weight Loss:
  • What it is: Losing too much body weight.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Horses burn more energy to stay warm in the cold, and if they don't eat enough, they can lose weight.
  • Symptoms: Visible loss of body condition, protruding bones, and changes in overall appearance.
8. Coughing:
  • What it is: Making a sound like clearing the throat, but in horses.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Cold air and exposure to dust or mold in hay can lead to coughing.
  • Symptoms: Persistent coughing, nasal discharge, and respiratory distress during exercise.


Respiratory Issues Support is designed to address respiratory concerns. Promotes comfortable breathing and clear respiratory function. Soothes irritation naturally. Helps with coughing, congestion, and labored breathing. All-natural formula. Safe and gente for all horse breeds.

9. Mud Fever:
  • What it is: Skin infections, usually on the legs, caused by wet and muddy conditions.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Wet and muddy areas can irritate the skin and create a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Symptoms: Swelling, redness, heat, and oozing sores on the legs.
10. Icy Pasture Injuries:
  • What it is: Injuries such as strains, sprains, or fractures as horses navigate uneven terrain.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Slippery or icy pasture conditions increase the risk of horses slipping, straining, or sustaining injuries while navigating the terrain.
  • Symptoms: Lameness, swelling, visible signs of pain, and reluctance to move are common symptoms of injuries caused by icy pasture conditions.
11. Joint Issues:
  • What it is: Problems with the connections between bones, which can cause pain and stiffness.
  • Why it happens in cold weather: Cold weather can make joints stiffer, and older horses may be more prone to joint problems.
  • Symptoms: Reduced range of motion, stiffness, and visible signs of discomfort when moving.


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12. Sunburn:
  • What it is: Sunburn can occur in winter when the sun's reflection off snow intensifies UV rays. 
  • Why it happens in cold weather: The reflective nature of snow intensifies UV rays, causing sunburn on areas with less hair, particularly the nose and face.
  • Symptoms: Red or inflamed skin, sensitivity to touch, and potential blistering or peeling in sun-exposed areas indicate sunburn in horses during winter.
  • Understanding these issues is essential for horse owners. It allows you to take preventive measures and provide proper care during cold weather, keeping your horses healthy.

Two horses outside in winter and snow.

Tips To Prevent Cold-Weather Ailments in Horses

Preventing cold-weather ailments in horses involves careful management and attention to their well-being. Here are a few tips to help prevent common cold-weather issues:

  • Provide Adequate Shelter: Ensure horses have access to a well-constructed shelter to protect them from wind, rain, and snow. This can be a stable, run-in shed or other suitable structures.
  • Proper Nutrition: Feed horses a balanced diet rich in hay or forage to help them maintain body condition and generate heat. Adjust their feed based on individual needs and the demands of cold weather.
  • Fresh Water Availability: Ensure horses have access to clean, unfrozen water at all times. Encourage drinking by offering slightly warmed water during very cold weather.
  • Regular Hoof Care: Keep hooves clean and dry to prevent issues like thrush. Regularly pick out hooves, and consider using hoof conditioners or dressings.
  • Protect Against Blanket Rubs: If using blankets, ensure they fit correctly to avoid friction and rubs. Check blankets regularly for signs of wear, and provide breaks from blanket use to allow the coat to breathe.
  • Regular Grooming: Regular grooming helps to remove dirt, mud, and loose hair. It also promotes good circulation and allows you to monitor your horse for any signs of skin issues or injuries.
  • Regular Hoof Care: Keep hooves clean and dry to prevent issues like thrush. Regularly pick out hooves, and consider using hoof conditioners or dressings.

A woman checking her horse's hoof.

  • Mud Management: Reduce exposure to muddy conditions, which can contribute to skin issues. Use gravel or sand in high-traffic areas and employ proper pasture management practices.
  • Warm-Up Blankets: If your horse has been exercising or is damp, consider using a warm-up blanket to prevent chilling. Remove the blanket once the horse is dry to prevent overheating.
  • Bedding in Stalls: Provide ample, clean bedding in stalls to create a comfortable and warm environment for horses. This helps insulate them from the cold floor and provides a dry resting area.
  • Exercise: Regular, moderate exercise helps to keep horses healthy and promotes good circulation. This is particularly important in colder weather when horses might spend more time indoors.
  • Monitor Body Condition: Regularly assess your horse's body condition, adjusting feed as needed to maintain a healthy weight throughout the colder months.
  • Ice Control: Manage icy conditions by spreading sand or gravel in areas prone to slipping. This helps prevent injuries caused by slipping on ice.
  • Rotate Pastures: Rotate pastures regularly to prevent overgrazing and reduce the risk of horses ingesting toxic plants that may be more accessible in winter.
  • Provide a Salt Block: Ensure access to a salt block to encourage drinking and provide essential minerals. This can help prevent dehydration during colder weather.

By implementing these tips, horse owners can create a supportive environment that reduces the risk of cold-weather ailments and promotes their horses' overall health and well-being. However, when prevention is not possible, homeopathy can be an excellent way to provide effective care.

A beautiful picture of a horse in the stable.

How Homeopathy Works for Horses

Homeopathy for horses is a form of alternative medicine that uses highly diluted substances to stimulate the body's natural healing processes. Here's how it generally works:

  • Principle of Similars: Homeopathy follows the principle of "like cures like." This means that a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy horse can be highly diluted to treat similar symptoms in a sick horse.
  • Individualized Treatment: Homeopathy considers each horse unique, considering its overall health, behavior, and specific symptoms. The chosen remedy is tailored to the horse's specific condition.
  • High Dilution: Homeopathic remedies are often significantly diluted, sometimes to the point where no molecules of the original substance remain. The dilution process enhances the remedy's healing properties, minimizing potential side effects.
  • Energetic Medicine: Homeopathy believes that the energetic imprint of the diluted substance interacts with the body's vital force, a concept akin to the body's self-healing mechanisms.

An illustrative picture of a homeopathic remedy.

Benefits of Using Homeopathic Remedies for Cold-Weather Ailments in Horses

Homeopathy for horses offers several benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Gentle Approach: Homeopathic remedies are generally considered gentle and non-invasive, making them suitable for horses, especially those sensitive to traditional medications.
  • Minimal Side Effects: Homeopathic remedies often have minimal side effects compared to conventional drugs due to their high dilution. This can benefit horses with pre-existing health conditions or those prone to adverse reactions.
  • Holistic Treatment: Homeopathy considers the horse's overall well-being, addressing not just the symptoms but also potential underlying causes. This holistic approach may support the horse's overall health.
  • Supportive Care: Homeopathic remedies may be used alongside conventional veterinary care to provide additional support and promote the horse's recovery from cold-weather ailments.
  • Prevention and Long-Term Health: Some proponents of homeopathy suggest that it can be used preventively to maintain a horse's health and prevent the recurrence of specific ailments, especially in changing weather conditions.
  • Individualized Treatment Plans: Homeopathy emphasizes individualized treatment plans, allowing horse owners to tailor remedies to their horse's unique characteristics and symptoms, potentially leading to more effective outcomes.

A woman hugging her horse.

Homeopathic Remedies for Cold-Weather Ailments

The following are homeopathic remedies that are considered for the mentioned cold-weather ailments in horses:

1. Respiratory Infections:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Aconitum napellus
  • Aconitum is sometimes considered for sudden respiratory infections, especially after exposure to cold wind or weather.

2. Winter Colitis:

  • Homeopathic remedy: Arsenicum álbum
  • Arsenicum is often recommended for digestive issues and may be considered for horses experiencing colitis symptoms in cold weather.


Colic Support is useful for colic and related issues. Provides natural support for abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort. All-natural formula. Safe and gentle for all horse breeds.

3. Lameness:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Rhus Toxicodendron
  • Rhus tox is commonly used for stiffness and lameness that improves with movement. It may be considered for horses experiencing discomfort in cold weather.
4. Dehydration:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Veratrum album
  • Veratrum is sometimes recommended for dehydration with cold skin, weakness, and a desire for cold drinks. It's essential to address dehydration promptly with veterinary assistance.
5. Frostbite:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Calendula officinalis
  • Calendula is thought to have healing properties for skin issues and may be considered for superficial frostbite. 
6. Hoof Problems:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Silicea
  • Silicea is suggested for conditions that involve suppuration or the formation of pus. It may be considered for certain types of hoof infections.


Laminitis Support is recommended for inflamed hooves, pain, and discomfort. Supports healthy hoof growth. All-natural formula. Suitable for horses of all ages and activity levels. Easy to take.

7. Weight Loss:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Natrum muriaticum
  • Natrum mur may be considered for horses experiencing weight loss due to stress or grief. However, addressing the underlying cause is crucial.
8. Coughing:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Drosera rotundifolia
  • Drosera is often suggested for persistent, dry coughs. It's essential to identify the cause of the cough and seek veterinary advice.
9. Mud Fever:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Graphites
  • Graphites is sometimes considered for skin conditions with oozing, cracking, and itching. Proper hygiene is essential for mud fever.
10. Icy Pasture Injuries:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Ruta graveolens
  • Ruta is suggested for injuries to tendons, ligaments, and bones. It may be considered for horses experiencing strains or sprains in icy conditions.
11. Joint Issues:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Bryonia alba
  • Bryonia may be considered for joint pain that worsens with movement. 
12. Sunburn:
  • Homeopathic remedy: Cantharis
  • Cantharis is often used for burns and may be considered for soothing sunburned areas. Still, prevention through shelter or sunscreen is essential.
  • Be sure to incorporate these homeopathic remedies in your horses’ winter care routine, as they are effective and gentle options to address cold-weather ailments and promote natural healing.

Four horses outside in the winter.

The Bottom Line

As the winter months unfold, you may find yourself exploring horses’ cold-weather care. The key lies in a proactive and well-rounded approach, from preventing frostbite to managing respiratory issues. Regular grooming, proper nutrition, and vigilant monitoring contribute to your horse's resilience against low temperatures. 

By implementing preventive measures, staying attuned to signs of distress, and using homeopathic remedies, horse owners can foster an environment where their horses thrive even in the coldest seasons. Here's to the well-being and vitality of our cherished equine friends in every season. Let’s create a path towards a season of happy, healthy horses. 

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