Tis’ the season for giving, and as loving horse owners many of us include our four legged family members in the Christmas celebrations. As you hang the stockings and garland on the stall door have you ever stopped to think about the potential hazards of including your horse in your holiday celebration? Yes, Christmas giving could actually be hurting your horse! Here are some tips to ensure that everyone stays healthy this holiday season:
Feeding/Treats – We tend to eat a bit more during the holidays, and tend to be a little decadent with extra treats and sweets. Horses are extremely sensitive to any changes in their diet. If you want to “treat” your horse over the holidays please do so smartly. No matter how much your horse will enjoy it, do not feed a special meal of grains or excess treats that they don’t normally eat, it could cause colic. A horse’s digestive system is a wonderful and complex series of organs that work with the help of good bacteria that aid in digestion. When a horse ingests a new food it takes time for the bacteria to adjust. Feed that is unable to be digested may sit and ferment in the bowel, resulting in a change in pH which will kill off some of the intestinal bacteria and cause the overgrowth of others. The death of bacteria produces endotoxins in the bowel which elicits a chain reaction of inflammatory responses that deteriorate the horse’s systems causing distress. So, please do not feed extra during the holidays – instead try a long grooming/massage session or try spending some non-demanding time with your horse, like handwalking down the road or trail.
Stable Management – Some of our equine partners are extremely curious and love the chance to get their lips on anything within their reach. Make sure that any Christmas decorations are safely out of their reach so that there is no cause for injury. As well, as cold weather sets in we do tend to batten down the hatches to keep the winter winds out. Always make sure that there is still adequate ventilation in your barn to circulate air. This will help to reduce humidity, clear out fumes from ammonia as urine breaks down, and keep dust from hay and bedding more manageable.