The changing of seasons can bring many challenges such as grass quality, turnout conditions and changes to horses’ workloads with some horses’ workloads decreasing or given time off during the winter months.
Key changes and effects.
- Grass quality - In the spring and summer the nutritional profile of grass is much higher and richer in sugar and starch than in autumn and winter. This can cause horses to struggle to maintain weight over winter, and depending on diet, may not be getting all their daily needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. In spring and summer, this can cause good-doers to become overweight and can cause Laminitis flareups.
- Turnout conditions - Over the winter months not everyone will have access to turnout due to the weather conditions we experience in the winter. This then means most horses spend an increased amount of time being stabled. Things to keep an eye out for with increased stable time are stiffness, behavioural changes and symptoms of tying up.
- Change of workload - Lots of horses are roughed off in autumn and winter, and in a higher workload during spring and summer. This leads to a change in their daily dietary requirements and needs.
- Temperature changes – As your horse’s coat changes (including clipping) then their rug requirements will change.
- Evaluate your horse’s body condition early. For horses at risk of becoming overweight or showing signs of laminitis during the spring and summer months, try to encourage healthy weight loss during autumn and winter. For horses at risk of becoming underweight during autumn and winter, ensure they are a good weight but not overweight turning to autumn. Ensure they are correctly rugged as it gets colder to prevent them from burning excess calories trying to keep warm or from overheating.
- Ensure your horse is getting their correct nutritional needs for the time of year and workload they are in. It is especially important to ensure they are getting the correct amount of vitamins and minerals in the winter months and to increase their calorie and fibre intake as their workloads increase.
- If you are unable to turn your horse out as much as you would during the summer months, then ensure they are leaving their stables at least twice a day for a leg stretch. This will help prevent stiffness and potential tying up.