The winter came this year with thunder and unusual temperatures. The horses feel it too and they do need more food because of the need to maintain higher core temperatures. If the horse has a summer coat the critical temperature is 41°F, and with a winter coat it is 18°F. Of course, this is just a general and is affected by individual horse characteristics. Smaller animals have a greater surface area relative to body weight and can lose heat more rapidly than a larger animal.

Cold Weather Can Result In Slow Growth In A Young Horse
A weanling may reach their lower critical temperature quicker than a mature horse, and cold weather can slow growth of the young horse because the calories are used to maintain the temperature rather than to feed the weight gain. To minimize a growth slump during cold weather, young horses need additional calories.

Also, a  horse with short hair that is exposed to cold, wet weather will have a higher critical temperature than that of a horse with a thick hair coat and fat stores who is acclimated to cold weather.

Energy needs increase

Energy needs increase about 1% for each degree below 18°F. For example, if the temperature is 0°F, a 1,000-pound horse needs approximately 2 additional pounds of forage daily. It is best to provide the extra energy as forage.

Some horse owners like to feed extra grain as they believe that feeding more grain will help keep a horse warmer. However, not as much heat is produced as a by-product of digestion, absorption, and utilization of grain as is produced from the microbial fermentation of forage. Studies show that the nutrition doesn’t need to be changed; however, feeding loose salt instead of block salt makes sense since some horses may not want to lick cold salt blocks during winter months.

Be aware that during winter months, heavy hair coats can hide weight loss. Regular body condition scoring is recommended to gauge weight and assess horse health. If a horse starts to lose body condition, increases in feed are recommended. 

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