There's no denying it...Winter is coming, and it can be a tough season for horses. They will put much of their energy into growing a thick winter coat and staying warm on damp and windy days. This task requires a lot of energy, and energy comes from good feed and hay. In the cold months, there is less energy left over for warding off disease, which puts at risk older horses, foals, any horse with a weakened immune system (due to a disease like Lymes), any horse that has recently had a round of antibiotics, and any horse who has traveled recently, moved homes, and been exposed to new horses and environments.
The best thing you can do to help keep your horse comfortable and healthy this winter, is to evaluate what they are eating and make adjustments if necessary. There are staple vitamins and minerals that all horses need (usually absorbed by eating vitamin-rich fresh grass and little bits of mineral-rich dirt that cling to the grass roots) to keep their immune systems trucking along at full steam. In the winter, horses can no longer graze on pasture and need to get these vits and mins from mineral blocks and supplements instead. Talk to your vet about your concerns and have them guide you when making feed changes.
In addition to providing the most optimal, balanced diet possible for your horse, regular conditioning work throughout winter is important for their overall health and will aid in keeping their immune system strong and avoid problems like inflammation in the joints and loss of muscle mass. Of course there are always days when it's just TOO cold to ride or lunge, but try your best to work your horse at the very least once a week. The more the better, unless there is a special circumstance like lameness, sudden weight loss or illness.
Sometimes health problems reveal themselves in a horse's attitude first before it becomes physically visible. If your horse is inexplicably cranky or lethargic, pay attention. Even healthy horses can take a quick down-turn when the weather turns harsh, so it pays to be ahead of the game. Identify any potential problems now, adjust feed to support them as best you can, and keep a close eye on their body condition and moral day in and day out.
Ok, enough winter talk for now! Ew! ;)