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Feeding Advice Articles

The latest information and advice on equine nutrition and management. At Simple System, we pride ourselves not only on the quality of our feed products, but also on providing expert advice directly to our customers for the benefit of your horses. Browse our latest feeding advice articles from our knowledgeable and qualified team.

Have a question? Contact our Feed Line for free feeding advice for your horse. Request a Feed Plan or call 01728 604 008.

Managing changes in routine during winter

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!

Some horse’s enjoy their “home comforts” - a deep bed, a pile of hay and a warm mash of soaked Lucie Nuts, but for others, spending more time stabled can be stressful and take some getting used to.  Similar to changing their feed, management changes should also be introduced gradually, so if you know your yard restricts turn out from 1st December for example, start stabling them for short periods now.

If your horse doesn’t cope well with being stabled for longer, there are lots of things you can do to help:

Feeding the poor doer in winter

Winter can be a challenging time for our poor doers; grass quality declines offering much less nutritional value than in the warmer seasons and the cold weather makes use of energy stores for generating heat and staying warm, on top of daily maintenance requirements and fuelling any work.

Over winter, the majority of the diet may be made up of hay or haylage which can be of varying quality and some horses may struggle to consume enough calories through hay alone. Some owners turn to high calorie cereal mixes, but with a high cereal inclusion comes a high starch level and when undigested starch passes into the hindgut, it causes a rapid drop in pH. This can lead to a disruption in the sensitive microbiome and digestive discomfort. Starchy feeds can also cause hot” or reactive behaviour. This is why feeding large, starchy feeds, can be counterproductive for weight gain or cause secondary problems. If we make use of higher nutrition, forage-based feeds we can feed generously but keep starch levels at a minimum to support good gut health. 

Autumn Laminitis - is your horse at risk?

Autumn can be a tricky time for horses and ponies prone to laminitis. Horses and ponies that are overweight, older or have existing metabolic issues will be more at risk. It is important that your horse not be allowed to gain too much weight - cresty necks and fat pads on other parts of the body are an indicator that the balance of hormones is getting out of kilter and the risk of laminitis is greater.

Grazing needs to be timed carefully and the weather forecast monitored.  As it is sunlight that triggers sugar production, dull days will be "safer". Grazing may need to be restricted, either by strip grazing, using track system and/or grazing muzzles.

Understanding the risks of Ergot

Ergot is a fungus that contains poisonous alkaloids. It mostly grows on rye and is usually associated with rye in Eastern Europe where it can contaminate bread. It is being seen increasingly here, and it is not confined to cereal grains - it can also infect grass, especially ryegrass.

The ergot fungus appears as a little outgrowth, looking a bit like a mouse dropping, on the ear or seed head of the infected plant. Some years it is more of a problem than others and is most likely after a cold winter followed by wet weather then hotter conditions

Feeding new hay

When old hay is running low, or is not very good quality, we will want to start on the new hay as soon as possible. But when can we start using new hay? Newly made hay continues to under-go changes even after it is baled. Traditionally, new hay was never fed to horses until Michaelmas at the end of September - when it was termed old hay! In practice and under pressure of supplies, do not feed new hay until it has been baled at least 6 weeks and even then, keep a close eye out for any signs your horse is not happy with it. This could be loose droppings, bloated and gassy or even colicky. Not all horses are affected by new hay, but it is not worth risking a gassy colic.

Preparing for Pony Club camp?

Ponies often work harder than usual at camp and so their feeding requirements will increase. Target Feeding is ideal. A Target Feed is given directly before work to provide energy and stamina for the work. This can be made up of your pony's normal feed, or if your pony needs additional energy Blue Bag Grass Pellets are ideal. Horses and ponies are also likely to perform (and behave!) better when not allowed to go hungry. Target Feeding will make the pony more comfortable in the stomach during work as it prevents acid splash.

Understanding: Ragwort

The dreaded ragwort is flowering now and is easy to spot. It is also starting to go to seed, so any not promptly removed will spread through its wind-borne seeds. The safest way to remove ragwort from horse pastures is to pull or dig it up, hopefully getting all the roots at the same time. Wear gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the sap and pollen. Gather it into re-used feed bags and put the plants flowers down, roots up, to avoid inadvertently spreading seeds. Put pulled plants straight into the bags - don't carry them around as this risks spreading seeds.

Understanding: Sand Colic

There are many causes of colic of which sand is just one. It occurs when ingested sand accumulates in the large intestine. It can caaltered ain a proportion of sand and these coarser, heavier grains sink to the lower parts of the large colon. Your vet can help with diagnosis as there is a distinct line across the top of the sand which can show up on an ultrasound, for instance, or they may be able to hear the grains of sand with a stethoscope.

Understanding: Laminitis

Despite being well into the summer months, laminitis cases are still high and we have been speaking to a number of concerned owners who are experiencing laminitis for the first time. The warm and wet weather we have forecast is likely to trigger further flushes in grass growth and so monitoring overweight or metabolic equines is essential. a weigh tape daily and record readings to quickly spot changes.

A history of sainfoin

Sainfoin is an ancient legume that has been grown by farmers across the world for hundreds of years. It is native to South Central Asia and was introduced into Europe in the 15th century. There is a record of sainfoin being imported into England from France in 1652. The name Sainfoin comes from the French saint foin or sain foin meaning "healthy hay". It was known that animals fed on sainfoin were healthier and put on weight more rapidly than on other forage. In the days when working horses were commonly used in agriculture, sainfoin was grown as a hay crop to provide high quality forage which would power the heavy working horses. In the south of England, one in seven fields used to be covered with sainfoin and it is still widely grown in northern Spain, Italy, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.