Are you ready for winter? Feeding your horse

  • The winter months are looming and as a horse owner, that means it’s time to get prepared. If you haven’t started your preparations for the colder season then, don’t worry — follow our top tips and you’ll be ready in no time. Plus, the more prepared you are, the quicker spring will seem to come around.

    Your horse’s winter diet

    • Think carefully about your horse’s diet in the autumn. Stand back and take a good look so you can decide whether the winter will be an opportunity for him to lose a few pounds, or whether he needs to put weight on before the cold weather sets in. Remember that during really cold spells, up to 80% of what he eats will be used for warmth.
    • Forage is particularly important during the winter as the horse’s digestive system creates heat as it processes the fiberous material. Even if grass is still available in the field, the nutrition level of it will be minimal, so additional fibre will be required in the form of hay, haylage or a short-chop substitute.
    • To ensure your horse is receiving all the vitamins and minerals he needs you might consider adding an all-round supplement or a feed balancer to his diet to help keep him healthy.
    • If you think your horse is going to need a change of feed in the winter, ensure you make any changes gradually. Any drastic alterations to his diet can lead to veterinary problems, such as colic, which will prove costly.
    • Slow-release energy feeds, which are high in fibre and oil will help your horse get through the winter without losing condition. There are numerous feeds on the market to help maintain weight without sending your horse ‘over the top’, but do consider his workload and temperament before making any changes. Most feed companies have qualified equine nutritionists available to help advise you on what feed would best suit your horse.
    • Encouraging your horse to drink can also be a challenge when the cold weather sets in. Consider how you might insulate water buckets in the stable if they tend to freeze. Putting them inside an old tyre packed with straw may help. You could add warm water to both water buckets and feeds to increase fluid intake, or consider feeding wet feeds like sugarbeet. There are also some products available which flavour the water to encourage fussy drinkers, or some people try a splash of apple juice. Try these now to find out what your horse likes before you need to use them.

    More winter preparation tips:
    Get ready for winter: getting organised

    Get ready for winter: preparing the yard

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