During winter your horse’s energy requirements will increase, this is to help maintain body weight and for heat production. Access to good grazing pasture will also be reduced as the growth of grass slows down, and you may stable your horses when it’s cold. Now might be a good time to make some gradual adjustments to your horse’s diet to help them through winter, especially if they maybe getting a little older in years. There are a couple of simple but important things you can do to help them through the colder months.
The first thought of many horse owners to help increase energy is to add or increase the grain in your horse’s ration. Whilst this is a good idea as grain is the most readily digestible energy source, it isn’t always practical for every horse or every diet. Forage, meaning hay, chaff or grass, is just as important and just as effective. The fibre from forage is digested in the hindgut, during the digestive process known as fermentation, producing heat, helping to keep the horse warm from the inside. At least 1% of the horse’s body weight should be feed daily as roughage/forage and can be increased to as much as 1.75% per day in cold conditions. Whilst a good quality meadow or grass hay is more than sufficient, the equivalent amount of lucerne hay has a higher calorie together with higher protein to help maintain body weight, so is ideal for winter feeding.
- Adding an Oil to the ration
Adding a good quality oil to your horse’s diet can also help them stay warm. Oil is a cool energy source that can help boost calorie intake without the need to increase your feed ration, whilst also providing essential fatty acids. It is highly digestible and has the added benefit of helping keep a nice shiny coat through winter.
- Including a boiled mash to your diet
Mashes or boiled feed such as Barley can also be a good addition. They are a good source of carbohydrates which provide energy, proteins, vitamins, and minerals depending on which one you choose. They are easily digestible and mashes such as boiled barley are low in sugar and starch’s but high in fibre.
Something as simple as adding an extra biscuit of lucerne hay to your feeder in winter can make all the difference to helping your horse maintain good condition and stay warm when it’s cold. As with all changes to your horse’s diet, they should be made slowly and gradually. If you have any questions or you just aren’t sure your horse is getting everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Diet evaluations can be a very helpful tool. Ranvet offer a free diet evaluation service here that can help take the guess work out of your winter feeding!
Ranvet’s FREE Diet Evaluation