With the cooler months right here, it is a good time to assess our horses’ diet. As temperatures fall horse’s needs may vary especially in older horses or horses that may have a low body weight index leading into winter.
In winter, our horses required energy levels increase, they need additional energy to maintain body temperature and keep warm. A horses first line of defence against the cold is its coat. Coming into winter it will lengthen and thicken to trap the air and heat beneath. Their second line of defence is their fat deposits which can be metabolised if nutrients are lacking hence the importance of having your horse is optimum condition leading up to the cooler months.
Some of the things we can do to assist our horses get through the cold are
- Rugging – if a horses coats get wet, they can get heavy which inhibits its ability to trap air. A nice warm rug will help keep the elements at bay.
- Stabling – which helps to increase body heat with good air flow.
- Increase roughage – heat is generated during digestion helping to maintain body heat. Roughage is very important during winter especially as our pastures slow down. The horses digestive system is designed to be constantly grazing, so ensuring access to good quality hay can help prevent prevent any major health issues.
- Allow access to clean fresh water – even in winter a horse should be consuming 25-35 litres of water per day.
- Introduce some Electrolytes and hydration – even though you may not think your horse needs electrolytes in winter, it is just as important as any other time of year, they still lose them even if it’s not visible to you. When winter approaches horses tend to rely more on hay than pasture as our grasses stop growing, this can lead to dehydration and in extreme cases impaction colic. Hay has a significantly lower water content than pasture so during winter horses do not get as much of that added water/fluid that they absorb through eating pasture, combine that with the fact they will probably drink less with cooler water temperatures, and dehydration can occur.
- Add a little oil to your horses’ diet – It is a cool energy source that is easily absorbed
Just as we like to be well fed and warm in winter, so do our horses. Providing good quality feed and hay together with good hydration will help your horses stay nice and cosy as it gets colder. It’s is always a good idea to start planning well in advance so you horse can go into winter with a good solid foundation to see them through those frosty mornings.
Written by Selena Phillis