Can horses cope with sudden cold weather?
Horses can survive and even thrive in what we consider to be very inhospitable conditions, but they do need plenty of feed to fuel them and keep them warm.
Our Director of Nutrition, Jane van Lennep BSc., MSc., BHSI (SM Cert)., NPSD., shares advice on how to feed your horse this winter.
Forage first. Make sure your horse always has forage available to eat. Horses generate their heat through fermenting forages in the hindgut. By ensuring your horse has enough hay to eat, you will keep him warm in the coldest weather. Split hay rations into two or three piles spread evenly apart. Encouraging movement will keep your horse exercised, healthier and will help keep joints in good condition.
Split feeding times. Instead of feeding your horse once a day, try to split feeding times to two or even three times a day (if possible!). Horses are used to eating almost constantly.
Check water levels. Monitor your horse's water daily to ensure they are drinking enough and staying hydrated. Break ice on frozen water troughs (use a colander to sift out chunks of ice) and add in a little hot water to tempt your horse to drink. If your horse needs further encouragement still, adding a handful of TopGain , MetaSlim or Simple Balance + can work incredibly well. Soaked forages, such as our Blue Bag Grass Pellets, are a great way to hydrate your horse as well as giving them a nutritious feed.
Check hydration by doing a pinch test. A pinch of loose skin on the shoulder should immediately spring back when you let go.
Environmental Enrichment. Enrich your horse's environment to keep them occupied, particularly if they are stabled for long periods of time in the winter. MeadowBrix are great boredom busters. They are 1kg blocks of compressed grass chop and the horse has to gnaw and chew on them, mimicking natural grazing. You can feed them in the stable or the field. You can also give your horse a treat ball filled with forage pellets such as Organic Lucie Pellets . This will keep them occupied and encourage trickle feeding. As a treat, cut up pieces of carrot or apple into batons and hide them in your horse's hay. Be sure to always feed your horse at or at least near, ground level. Horses evolved as grazers for 30 million years and their back, teeth, neck and lungs are all adapted to them eating with their head down.
Provide a vitamin boost. Grass has less nutritional value in the winter and so your horse may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need. Feed a balancer to top up any deficiencies. Total Eclipse is a blend of top quality ingredients for our ultimate, and most cost-effective, forage balancer. It provides a top up of natural vitamins, minerals, trace elements and prebiotic - and as we don't use any bulkers or fillers, you only need to feed a small amount. If you prefer a pelleted balancer for convenience, Simple Balance + is ideal.
For more advice on winter feeding, call our Feed Line on 01728 604 008, email email@example.com or complete our online form.