Mud, not so glorious, mud...
Horse ownership and mud - they seem to go together in the winter don't they?
In winter, the weather can change dramatically for the worse. Out kept horses may suddenly find their grass is under a thick layer of snow so will need additional feeding. Hay is an obvious answer, but sometimes more nutrition is needed – keeping warm is very calorie demanding. 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.
Horses have trillions of microbes which ferment fibre in their hind gut and this releases fuel, vitamins, gas and heat. It is like having a central heating boiler in their gut! However, not all fibre can be fermented – old, tough lignified fibre escapes this process. The fibre needs to be good quality, such as from early made hay and dried forages. Straw, late made and old hay may not be as effective at keeping the microbes fed and generating heat.
Simple System forage feeds are an ideal solution in bad weather. They have plenty of good fibre and are fed soaked which helps address the issue of hydration – horses don’t like very cold water and may be reluctant to walk to a water trough in an exposed area of their field. Use warm water to soak feeds when it is below freezing. Feeds soak up more quickly and can be offered to the horses once there are no hard bits and while still warm. PuraBeet, Lucie Nuts, Blue Bag Grass Pellets, Sainfoin Fibre Pellets, Lucie Fibre Cubes can all be used to give some extra nutrition. As they are digested in the same way as hay or grazing, they can be fed as generously as needed. There is also no limit to meal size with Simple System forage feeds so the horses can be left with large feeds to see them through.
When putting out feed and hay, notice where the horses are happy to stand. In severe conditions, they will find the most sheltered spot to keep out of the worst of the weather and will be reluctant to move away to graze, drink or eat proffered feed. Take the food to the horses – do not expect the horses to brave extreme weather to come for food. Check for any signs of dehydration if they might not be drinking.
For more detailed information about your own horses’ nutrition, contact the Feed Line on 01728 604 008 or complete our online enquiry form.
In winter it can be hard to strike a balance between horse ownership and day-to-day life; less daylight means many horses spend an increasing amount of time indoors and may also have less interaction with their owners who are dashing back home to thaw out