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Winter Care for Show Horses and Pasture Horses
Articles from the may not be republished without permission.
Posted on December 3rd, 2007   Midwest Stallion Directory

Expert Horse Trainers Offer Advice for Winter Horse Care
If you live in a cold-weather climate, you realize that winter does not offer the most ideal conditions for caring for or showing your horses.  Providing proper care for your pasture and show horses can be challenging.  In this Midwest Stallion Directory Article, our expert Horse Trainer Panel offers advice on caring and showing your horses in the winter.  Our Horse Trainer Panel includes Windy Allen (WA), Tina Langness (TL), Jodie Janssen (JJ), Hillery Yager (HY), Monica Anderson (MA), and Amy Hayden (AH).

Q. For show horses, what strategies do you incorporate to keep a slick, short hair coat on your horses in the winter?


WA- We keep all our horses slick, if possible, during the winter months even if they are not showing. We keep lights on 16 hours over their stalls and the barn remains about 45 degrees. We have another area of the barn that is self contained, that we keep about 55 degrees for the horses that show through the winter. We keep blankets on all the horses.
MA- It is best to keep any animal you are planning to show or sell in a heated area. However, not everyone has this opportunity. If you don't have a heated stall, than double blankets and hoods and or sleezies are a necessity. Even with heat, most people keep a light sheet on them. Probably the biggest thing though is a good lighting system which includes light on in the stall for 12-14 hours of light each day - timers work best for this.
TL- For those of us that are lucky to have a heated barn this helps, but there are ways to keep a nice coat even without the luxury of heat. Keeping your horse on lights 16-hours per day is key. It's important to use a minimum of a 150 watt or brighter bulb, and putting the light on a timer makes it easy. I use the new energy efficient florescent bulbs, they now come in 150 watt and cut down on energy useage immensely. Your initial cost will be more, but they last 5-6 times longer than a regular light bulb. A rule of thumb is your horses stall must be bright enough in each corner to read small print from a book or magazine. You will need to be patient, if your horse has haired-up for winter months it takes about 90 days for him or her to begin the shedding process.
You need to keep your horse warm, but not sweating. I keep my barn at 60 degrees all winter and the horses wear a light blanket with a shoulder guard to keep the blanket from rubbing the hair off of the chest and shoulder area. If your barn is not heated, then a nylon sheet, heavy blanket and a neck cover or hood is a must. You don't want your horse to sweat. If your horse becomes sweaty underneath his or her blanket it can actually cause him to become chilled which can reverse the shedding process and tell the horses internal sensors to grow more hair.
A good nutrition program is very important. I feed my own custom grain ration that is balanced with proper vitamins and mineral as well as additional vitamin e and selenium. I also add MSM and glucosamine since many of my horses are working hard. My grain is also 8-9% fat which aids in absorption, increases longer satiety and helps put "bloom" on a horses coat. I also feed the highest quality alfalfa hay I can find and my hard keepers have hay in front of them 24/7.
Of course grooming is a big one. Your horses coat cannot breathe as well with all of his winter duds on, so daily grooming sessions are important. Using a rubber curry comb in a circular motion is perfect for loosening dead skins cells, hair, debris, etc. Follow up with a soft body brush or vacuuming. I then apply a coat conditioner over the entire horse including mane and tail before putting blankets back on.
If your horse is outside most of the time or even all of the time you can help facilitate a good hair coat by keeping him blanketed. If you start when the weather begins turning chilly in the fall you'll be ahead of the game. If you have a small paddock where you can add a spot light and timer, some horses will begin the shedding process earlier. Studies have shown this will also help some broodmares begin cycling earlier, for earlier breeding.

JJ- For show horses, we have 12 heatable stalls, and we start blanketing early, when the daylight savings changes. As it gets darker earlier, we blanket (light or medium weight depending on the temperature). When it gets cooler, the barn is heated to 50 degrees to keep the chill out. Haircoats usually keep well if you keep in mind the temperatures, and blanket accordingly, as well as lights, they are very important in keeping the horses thinking its daylight longer.  Our lights are on from 6 am till 10 PM.

HY- To keep slick hair coats on our show horses we set the lights in our barn on a timer to come on at 6 a.m. and go off at 10 p.m. We keep the barn temperature at 60 degrees farenheit. Each horse wears a winter blanket, and we continue with our daily grooming routine.


Q. Do your feeding rations change during the winter for your show horses? For your pasturing horses (if any)?


WA- We do increase feed and alfalfa during the winter months for the horses in the barn. The outside horses are increased when the temperature remains below freezing.
JJ- The show horses feeding program usually stays the same, but that also depends on the work load.  If they are getting less exercise due to the cold temperatures, I will watch their body maintenance and change my feed accordingly. The outside horses always get lots more, to increase their body fat, which helps them stay warmer.
HY- Our winter time feeding rations remain the same for our show horses. We do increase the alfalfa forage that we feed to our pastured horses during the winter months.
TL- I will cut back on some of my show horses grain rations in the winter when showing slows down for me. I treat every horse as a individual and a custom feed program is developed for each. It's simple - if a horse is growing hard or working hard they require increased caloric needs. If a increase is needed I almost always increase roughage (meaning hay) vs. increasing the grain ration. Most of my show horses have hay in front of them all of the time. I like a horse to have a nice fleshy feel over his rib cage, I don't like a overly thin horse. If a horse is not maintaining then the grain ration will be increased and perhaps a balanced fat will be added for extra calories and to assist in absorption. Daily exercise or turn out is also key. My pasture horses are generally broodmares, weanlings and yearlings and are fed a grain ration as well as high quality alfalfa round bales. My broodmares are kept separate from the younger horses as their caloric needs change due to pregnancy and growth needs


Q. Do your training sessions change during the winter. If so, how?


WA- Definitely. Our barn is heated, but our indoor is not. We only had a total of about 10 days last year that were miserable. Since those days were not concurrent, we would give the horses a day off if it was miserably cold. We are very careful to warm up the horses gradually and cool down the same. We use the wool coolers every day in the winter it seems.
MA- Training during the winter is a bit different because you have to be careful not to overexert them and get the horses too sweaty when it is 10 degrees and below. There are those days of below zero temps that riding is just not pleasant for the horse and trainer and plain not healthy for either. On these days the session may include a light warming up or lounging session or turn out to play. But, for the most part if you do your job 5 days a week, they shouldn't need to work too hard. We have to use our heads and do what is right for the mounts.
AH- Yes, because I don't have a heated barn or indoor arena.  I do keep winter blankets on so their hair coats stay good. In order to keep the horses healthy, I don't like to get them to heated up when the temps drop below 10 degrees- it is very hard on their respiratory system. If they end up to warm, I make sure they have a good cooler on to dry them off.
TL- My training sessions do change as the weather turns colder and riding has to be moved to the indoor arena.  I also take a short hiatus from showing, so any downtime from being on the road is dedicated to getting the young horses started and figuring out the upcoming seasons show string.  I like to give my show horses a short break of 1-2 months off if possible.  Once training resumes I reassess my clients goals for the up and coming year and begin teaching the horse new skills or improving on current ones.  Most of my horses are really strong in 1-2 events, but also do the all-around, so there are many skills the horse has to learn and maintain throughout the year.  Driving, trail, showmanship, patterns and lead changes are some of the skills we work hard on during the colder months.
JJ- My training sessions do change, I go from riding outside everyday, to the unheated indoor arena, so generally, depending on the temperature, they lighten up a little.  With the show horses, my goal is to keep up their stamina, but the young stock get more days less hours.
HY- In general our training sessions do not change in the winter. We give the horse a good warm-up and cool-down in each ride year round, and we focus on the skills and conditioning that are appropriate for each horse's level of training. However, we do have to make some allowances during winter weather riding. For example, it's not uncommon for a horse to need extra warm-up time to get his energy level and attention to a point at which he is ready to work. The horse may not perform at his peak level under some circumstances such as extreme cold, and we have to keep that in mind during our ride and keep our expectations for the horse reasonable.


Q. What advice can you offer to those that are trailering horses in the winter months.


WA- The biggest mistake I see people making when they haul in changing temperatures is not knowing your trailer and not checking the horses often. Our trailer is insulated well, so we are very comfortable hauling in the winter months. However, you have to check your horses to make sure they are not too hot. Donít forget about the added temperature the horses together in the trailer can create. As far as road conditions, check them out and call ahead. I refuse to travel if it is snowing or icy conditions. Nothing is that important. HOWEVER, weather can change and I have been caught in a few bad situations and was very lucky to make it out ok. Always keep in mind where you could stop along the way if you do have problems. Worst case, remember that the horses are better off standing on the trailer at a truck stop than in a ditch.
MA- Well, blanketing is a good idea when trailering but again if the horse is not used to blankets and already has a winter coat, it may not be necessary. The ride could get them overheated which would put them at risk for other health conditions such as colic. Again, we have to use our good judgment and plan ahead. Checking the weather and road conditions before hand are a must to having a safe trip for all.
TL- I think the best advice I can give here is to be prepared! The safety of your trailer is key! I always check my trailer tires for wear and air pressure before EVERY trip whether it's 50 miles or 1000. Also look for black dust around the rims or hub caps - if your brakes are grabbing, are not set correctly, need repair, or your wheel bearings or seals are worn out, you'll see a black dust or even grease around these areas. I have my brakes, wheel bearings and seals checked yearly as well as the hitch, lights, etc.
Another good thought is to have any tire repair tools accessible and not tucked away under tack, in the horse compartment, etc. I've had to change tires in inclement weather and it's not fun if you can't get to your tools! If you're brave enough or have the skills to change your own tire, here a few items I always have to assist me: A good spare tire full of air at the correct pressure, tire block you can drive up onto, a pry bar to get your hub cap off, a tire iron/breaker bar, and a can of W-D 40 to lubricate lugs that are rusted on. I also pack a 2-3 foot pipe that can be slipped over the end of the tire iron. I'm not big or strong enough to loosen some of the lugs so the pipe gives me the extra leverage I need if I'm by myself. I also carry hazard triangles, and a fire extinguisher as well as a first aid kit.
When hauling slicked haired horses in winter you need to keep them warm and keep the drafts out as best as possible. They do need some fresh air so if I have to crack open windows I open them at their butt side vs. their heads. I check on them often to make sure no one is sweaty. I also haul with the lights "on" inside the trailer beginning at dusk until 10-11 pm to mimic being on lights just like at home.
Watch the weather. I try not to haul in any icy, snowy or extreme cold conditions. It's not worth it, period. Plan your trip - if hauling great distances make sure you have back up places to stay or lay over if necessary. Carry extra hay and water (I keep water inside the truck in a sealable 5 gal jug to keep from freezing, if room). Make sure you have back up services such as AAA RV Plus program, etc. for towing, engine trouble, run out of gas, etc.
JJ- For trailering in the winter, always be aware of the temperature. If its so cold you are having a hard time breathing, so will your horse. Blanket according to temperature, and haircoat of your horse, i.e., less hair, cold temperature, means more blankets. I recommend lots of blanket checks on long trips, especially if traveling into warmer clients or colder climates you want to add or take off blankets, before the horse is uncomfortable.
HY- I think it's important to be sure that your truck and trailer are properly maintained for winter traveling.  Adjust the vents and windows in your trailer so that the horses are getting proper ventilation.  Use blankets and hoods for warmth.  We often use blanket liners and sheets as well.  We've found that it's nice to have the horses dressed in layers when traveling to other parts of the country as it is easy to remove or add layers as the temperature changes.  Check the weather and traffic reports, and use good judgment.


Q. What can you do to prepare your horse for temperature changes at shows?


MA- Using some probiotics or electrolytes is a good preventive measure for sure whether your are hauling in the winter or summer months. When leaving from a cold state and traveling south to warmer temps we need to stop frequently to check the animals and sometimes take off blankets and open vents and windows. Offering horses water every couple hundred miles also is not a bad idea and providing them with ample hay to munch on is also helpful.
TL- We show in all temperatures so I have a big trailer and allot of room to haul "stuff" so we are prepared for just about anything. It's a pain, however it beats not being prepared and having to locate and buy things while you're on the road. I carry 2 blankets, 2 sheets, a neck cover, sheet hood, and sleazy for every horse. If I'm on the road a long time I bring lights and timers and pack fans if we need them for the warmer weather shows. I also have a big duffle bag full of all size extension cords and adapters. We try hard to prevent chills at the cooler shows and keep everyone covered as much as possible. If I have a bunch of horses saddled and waiting to be ridden I keep them covered up until I'm ready for them. We "spot" wash vs. washing the entire horse if we can get away with it. If we have to wash the entire horse he gets covered up with a wool cooler until completely dry. You also need to keep your clients educated - one chill at a horse show can cause a horse to get off of their schedule and start growing hair, so everyone needs to get involved. There is nothing worse than having to show a horse that has haired up in March or April - again it takes about 90 days for a horse to "cycle" through the hairing up process and begin to shed out.



Q. Do you have any cold-weather tricks, tips, or advice that you could offer our readers?


WA- Always unhook the hoses and drain the lines. We used heater tape on a few faucets last year and it worked well.


TL- Keeping ice out of hooves - good old Vaseline or spray cooking oil works well, but needs to be applied everytime the horse goes out. A barefoot horse will keep ice balls out of feet better than a shod one. If a horse has to be outside with shoes on I'll have the farrier add barium to the bottom of the shoes for more grab and support when conditions are slippery. Also adding leather or silicone/rubber pads will prevent ice balls.
Keep hoses disconnected from hydraulic water pumps - a connected hose will prevent water from draining out of the pipe completley and they can freeze. Heat tape or even a clamp light pointed on a water/sistern spiket pipe can prevent freezing. If you don't use automatic waterers outside, then tank heaters are a must to prevent freezing. Drain water hoses to fill water tanks after every use and store inside. In stalls that are not heated I like to use heated water buckets so I am not breaking ice out of buckets. Spray cooking oil will also help with getting ice out of water buckets if applied before filling.
Keep vehicles filled with fuel and plug in if 10 degrees above zero or colder. If it gets really cold we add Isopropolyene to gas to prevent freezing of lines, and anti-gel to diesel tanks to prevent gelling. A good strong battery and clean terminals will help with starting.
JJ- The one thing I have that I love in the winter time for my outside horses, is a heated water tank, water is very important in a horses diet and free access to clean warm water, is important.




Thank you to our Expert Horse Trainer Panel.  To find out more about each Expert, please read below.

Windy Allen of Allen Quarter Horses at Sweet Tomorrow Farm in Elkhorn, Nebraska.  Windy has shown such winners as Show Me The Town (twice World Champion Aged Mare, Congress Champion Aged Mare, AQHA Champion, AQHA World Show Qualifer in Team Roping), Miss Double Show (winner of numerous all-arounds and a winner in both performance and halter events), and Kidd Flower (winner of numerous all-arounds and a winner in both performance and halter events).  Visit her website at:

Monica Anderson operates her training facility in Zumbro Falls, MN.  She has trained an APHA Champion, and many Superior Open Western Pleasure and English Pleasure horses. She has additionally trained several champion and reserve champion futurity horses.  Monica Anderson Performance Horses specializes is in training and showing young horses and in coaching youth and amateurs to achieve their goals. Visit her website at:

Amy Hayden operates Winning Edge Farm in Mondovi, WI.  Amy specializes in training Quarter Horses and Paints for western pleasure and hunter under saddle. She excels in preparing the all around horse and rider to be competitive at any level of competition. Her goal as a trainer is to bring out the best in each horse and rider. Every client and their horse is given individual attention to meet their particular needs. Visit her website at:

Tina Langness resides in New Richmond, WI.  Tina's primary focus is training, showing and instructing clients to compete with their APHA horses.  She has trained multiple World and Congress Champions, Futurity and Stakes winners, as well as State Champions.  Visit her website at:

 Jodie Janssen and her husband Scot operate Janssen Show Horses in Austin, MN.  This husband and wife team began their training operation in 2001 and every year since they started, they have been multiple PtHA World & Reserve World Champions, put multiple superiors on horses, have earned Top 5 and 10 honor roll placings, and have made 3 APHA champions. Additionally, Janssen Show Horses has had Top 10 placings at the world show under each of their belts, a Congress Champion, and customers with congress champions, and reserves. Visit their website at:

Hillery Yager and her husband Sonny operate Yager Pleasure Horses in Allen, NE.  The husband and wife due specialize in western pleasure, hunter under saddle, and youth & amateur all-around. Some accomplishments include: APHA World Show Top 5 & Top 10 placings, World Wide Paint Horse Congress Champions & Reserve Champions, APHA Honor Roll pleasure horses, PtHA World Champion western pleasure horses, numerous futurity winners & superior western pleasure and hunter under saddle horses.
Visit their website at:


This article is intended for informational purposes.  The Midwest Stallion Directory does not endorse or sponsor any of the businesses listed above. 

Posted on December 3rd, 2007   Midwest Stallion Directory
 © 2007
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