Good doer? - Read our Blog on Healthy winter weight loss for your horse here
Poor doer? - Read our Blog on Improving your horse's weight this winter here
Not really sure doer? - Carry on reading below
Feeding in winter can be simple, or quite complicated, and as usual we ideally need to look at each individual pony or horse's needs to best establish a feeding routine which suits them. However, there are some generalities we can look to when first visiting this as a topic.
At this time of year there is very little nutritional value to grass. Many ponies and horses will need hay to supplement the forage portion of their diet, and all should have a balanced diet.
For good doers, allow the natural weight loss over winter to help you shift some of that excess weight. Aim for your pony/horse to head into the spring looking slim, tracking weight loss with a weigh tape so you know you're heading in the right direction. Remember to keep the diet balanced with a low calorie balancer.
For poor doers, ad-lib forage (grass/hay/haylage) is an important first step, supported by a conditioning chaff and feed balancer to promote top line and digestive health. Find a feed balancer that includes probiotics, quality digestible protein and antioxidants. This allows you to feed additional oils and/or conditioning mashes (which likely contain oil) as an additional safe calorie source.
Did you know?
Horses have evolved to lose weight in the winter, however modern horse care practices can lead to halting this natural regulation.
Good doers can enter spring carrying more weight than needed, this should be a huge concern for owners, help us to share top tips on equine obesity.
Conversely poor doers can struggle to retain a healthy weight in the winter months, and finding ways to maintain weight can be hard.
In both cases acting now can positively affect your horse's long term health.
Top tips for winter feeding
- Feed forage first - at least 1.5% of bodyweight daily - weight your forage daily
- Whether you have a good or poor doer, feeding forage (ad-lib if possible) maintains a healthy digestive system and reduces boredom, promoting improved physical and mental health for you pony/horse
- Both the forage itself and the saliva created by chewing help to settle the stomach and reduce feelings of stress
- Feeding alfalfa is a great way to include further calorie provision while maintaining a low starch diet
- Feeding late cut hay to good doers is beneficial and/or soaking hay is useful to reduce calorie intake without the need to limit their intake
- For good doers and those in light work, forage and a low calorie feed balancer may be all they need
- Feeding a balancer from a treat ball can be a good mental work out for stabled horses
- Feeding a smaller amount of a cube or mix can lead to nutrient deficiencies
- Feeding a functional feed balancer can mean you save money on unnecessary supplements
- Look for feed balancers that contain supplements for calming, joint care, seniors and other needs
- Mashes are a great option for providing calorie content for those with poor or compromised dentition
- Feeding quality ingredients at a lower recommended feeding rate is often better "value" that feeding poorer quality feeds in larger quantities
- Maintain the dental health of all horses, especially those who are older, as this helps absorption of calories and continued digestive health
- Feed at least once a day, twice ideally, and three times a day for those in harder work or needing additional calories for weight gain
- Record your horse's weight regularly with a weigh tape through the winter months to make sure you are moving in the right direction (as changes can be difficult to see by eye)
- Recording weight regularly can help you make sure you track weight gain or loss at a healthy rate
Feed a balancer to ensure your pony/horse continues to receive the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need to maintain long term good health. Even better, choose a balancer which includes targeted ingredients if your horse has related needs.
Our feed advisors are here to help!
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