Montana Equine Medical & Surgical Center
Newsletter, December 2013
Happy Holidays!  Temperatures are dropping and winter weather has made its way here.  This may mean some changes for your fuzzy, four-legged friends.  Information and tips are listed below on how to make the freezing months a little easier on your horse.  
Montana Equine 
Winter Hours  

Montana Equine is currently on winter hours until March 15, 2014.  The new hours are listed below:
Monday through Friday - 9:00am - 4:00pm

Saturday - 9:00am - 12:00pm

Sunday - Closed
We are available 24/7 for any and all equine emergencies.  Please call the clinic at 406-285-0123.

          Cold and inclement weather conditions can present an array of challenges for horses. Although horses are naturally well-adapted to succeed in chilly weather, it is important to keep in mind their nutritional needs when the temperatures drop. Adequate caloric intake, fresh water and shelter from wind and precipitation will help your four-legged friend thrive in such conditions.

            Typically, horses consume about 2% of their body weight in roughage (hay) per day at rest in temperatures around 70F. For a 1,100 pound horse, this equal approximately 22 pounds of hay per day. Roughage (hay) should make up at least 50% of your horses diet. Many horses can maintain proper body weight and do very well on a diet of 100% roughage. For those that do not, it may be necessary to supplement with grains and oil. Sick horses or those on an increased level of exercise may benefit from the addition of cereal grains (oats, barley, rye, wheat, rice, corn). Horses begin requiring additional calories to regulate body temperature at about 50 F. Feed requirements can increase by 10-15 pounds of hay with wind, rain, and snow.

            Water is essential for digestion. Ensuring your horse has access to fresh, palatable water can be difficult in the winter time. The optimum water temperature for horses is 45-65 F. When temperatures outside begin to drop, so does the water temperature. In turn, horses will drink less. This makes them more prone to dehydration, poor digestion efficiency, and impactions. Heated water buckets are often essential when temperatures are consistently below freezing.

            It is important to regularly evaluate your horses feed regimen. Putting your hands on them a few times a week will help you determine body condition through hair and blankets. Also, waterers should be checked daily, and more often when temperatures drop.


           Colic is the number one killer of horses. It is a very broad term that does not describe a disease, but rather a combination of clinical signs that indicate abdominal pain. Although colic can range from mild to severe, it is often well managed with appropriate and timely medical treatment. There are many conditions that can cause colic. Recognizing signs immediately and calling your veterinarian can increase the chance of recovery greatly.

            The anatomy and function of the horses' digestive system makes them seem predisposed to colic. Management plays a huge role in prevention. The following guidelines can help minimize the risk of colic and maximize horse health.


  1. Establish a daily routine. This should include both feeding and exercise. Do your best to stick to it.
  2. Feed a diet that is high quality and is comprised primarily of roughage.
  3. Do not over feed grain and supplements, especially if your horse does not need them to maintain body condition.
  4. While hay is best fed free choice, grain should be divided into smaller (at least 2) feedings during the day.
  5. Make sure your horse is on a regular and appropriate parasite control program.
  6. Exercise and/or turnout should be provided daily.
  7. Provide access to fresh, clean water at all times.
  8. Avoid feeding off the ground, especially in sandy areas.
  9. Routinely check pastures, hay, bedding, and the surrounding environment for weeds, blister beetles, and foreign material.
  10. Try to keep stress at a minimum. Pay close attention when hauling or changing surroundings.

  • Leaving food; decreased appetite
  • Repeatedly lying down
  • Flank watching
  • Pawing
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Repeated rolling
  • Dog sitting
  • Stretching out
  • Posturing to urinate
  • Holding head in an unusual position
  • Decreased or no manure production
  • Decreased or absent digestive sounds
  • Inappropriate sweating
  • Rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils
  • Elevated heart rate (<48 beats/minute)
  • Depression/lethargy
Montana Equine Medical and Surgical Center
3934 Frontage Road
Three Forks, MT 59752
Thank you for your continued interest in Montana Equine.  We hope you and your family have a happy and safe holiday season.  Please look for future newsletters in the coming months.
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Montana Equine | 3934 Frontage Rd | Three Forks | MT | 59752