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.
What do happy hackers, endurance horses and showjumpers all have in common? Well, other than them all being equines, the vast majority of them have a change of pace during the winter months.
This can mean that the horse's Feed Plan needs a tweak at this time of year to allow them to cope with the change in workload, whilst maintaining shape, condition and performance. Although many of us will be replacing lost grazing during winter with Blue Bag Grass Pellets, this doesn't necessarily mean spending more by adding in an extra balancer, or by changing up your chop. Something as simple as feeding before work can make all the difference to how your horse feels and their way of going.
This practise of feeding directly before work is described as 'Target Feeding' - a topic we frequently discuss on our Feed Line. It's a principle that can be met with some resistance from those of us who were brought up reading the familiar manuals citing some variation of 'feed at least an hour before work'. It's understandable that it can be tricky to comprehend how it is beneficial, and perfectly safe, to offer a bucket of your soaked forage feed whilst you are tacking up or waiting at the side of the lorry.
The best way to explain is to ask you to imagine how horses would have lived out in herds on their wild, grassy, treeless plains many years ago. At the first sign of danger their ears would prick, they would open their nostrils and they'd run! Once they'd retreated safely, those horses would have then resumed their business.
Think back to what those horses would have been doing before they spotted the potential danger. You've probably guessed it - they were eating!
In nature, horses have never had the time to stand around waiting for their food to digest. They had to use their energy without hesitation whenever danger presented, to avoic becoming food themselves.
When feeding forage from a feed bucket the same principle applies as it does in nature. Just like grass and hay, forage feeds are fermented in the hind gut, meaning you don't need to withold food around work. This is not the case though for cereals and pulses. Horses did not evolve to cope well with these - which is why we never include them in our Simple System feeds.
Offering a Target Feed right before you get on board will provide a steady release of targeted energy to fuel the work you are about to do, keeping your horse focused and comfortable. Additionally this will line and protect the stomach, helping to reduce any potential for acid splash-back and subsequently ulcers.
Forage feeds can also be offered directly after work, or between stints of work - such as at a vet gate during an endurance ride - even if your horse is hot. Providing a soaked feed (we recommend soaking all of our pelleted forage feeds), will offer hydration as well as nourishment.
If you'd like to talk to us about Target Feeding, or if you require nutritional advice, please contact or Feed Line on 01728 604 008 or complete our online form.