Winter is approaching rapidly and with it a change in weather, grass quality and your horse's diet and management regimes. The aim of feeding horses at any time during the year is to maintain condition and ensure they are getting the appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals and calories in their diet. This is even more important in winter when we lose the nutrition gained from the grass. Here are my tips for winter feeding:
- It is better to prevent weight loss than manage it. If your horse is prone to dropping weight start making changes to the diet now.
- It is natural for horses to lose some weight in winter and owners should not get worried about a small amount of weight loss.
- Winter is the easiest time to manage horses and ponies that are overweight or obese and owners should be using winter to their advantage to increase weight loss.
- Always ensure you are feeding enough fibre in the form of forage - unless your horse is on a diet this should be ad-lib.
- Get into the habit of weighing your forage, most horses should be on at least 1.5% of their bodyweight in forage daily.
- If your horse needs to gain weight try to feed more than one source of fibre from the following list; hay, haylage, straw, buckets of chaff or readigrass.
- Always ensure your horse is getting the right quantity of vitamins and minerals by feeding a balancer or straight vitamin/mineral supplement.
- Avoid feeds high in starch such as mixes and cubes. Instead opt for high fibre feeds such as sugarbeet.
- For horses that need to increase condition or fussy eaters, look for calorie dense feeds high in fats and oils such as Baileys Outshine or saracen equi-jewel.
- Soaking hay is very effective at reducing calories for overweight horses and should be considered. Alternatively mixing the hay with low calorie good quality straw will make the haynet last longer.
- Keep a close eye on your horses body condition and use a weigh tape regularly or ideally a weigh bridge.
- If your horse has hay/haylage you don't need to feed lots of chaff/chop.
- Consider ways to reduce boredom such as salt licks, treat balls (use some of your horses normal feed or balancer instead of treats), swedes or carrots hanging in the stable, multiple smaller nets of hay placed around the stable.
- Finally, keep your horses diet simple. Most horses (even in high levels of competition) will do fine on an ad-lib forage diet plus feeds containing chaff, balancer and possibly sugarbeet.
As always, if you have any questions on feeding or wish to chat with us about your horse and preparing for the winter please do not hesitate to get in touch.