With winter comes the excessive mud, icy yards and multiple layers of thermals for horse owners, who know only too well that they’re not alone in counting down the days until Spring arrives. For horses that are good doers winter brings the ideal opportunity for them to lose a few extra pounds naturally, however for horses that are poor doers, winter can be a worrying time for their owners as they struggle to maintain a healthy weight. . I In this article, we will be providing you with our guide to keeping your horses happy and healthy throughout the colder weather.
Keeping Your Stabled Horse Entertained In The Winter
Miserable weather often means restricted grazing and the need for horses to spend more time stabled. Unfortunately this can lead to behavioural and health problems, especially if changes aren’t made gradually. Research has shown that offering a variety of forages to stabled horses not only provides a more stimulating environment but also allows them to demonstrate more natural foraging behaviour.
As horses are trickle feeders – naturally eating little and often, it’s good to try and replicate this for them in their stable. Add hidden root vegetables, such as carrots or swedes in some chaff and ensure that they have enough hay when they’rein to maximise their chew time. To make your horse’s hay or haylage last longer try placing it in small-holed nets or several haynets inside one another. Additional ways to encourage foraging activity are to place your horses chopped fibre feed in several rubber trug buckets or to use treat balls or licks. When looking for a treat to use in your horse’s treat ball, use a low sugar and starch treat as a healthy way to keep them entertained.
If your horse is stabled and you are unable to exercise them as much due to the weather, you may need to review the amount of horse food they are fed. As the amount of exercise decreases it is important to match the energy output with the calorie intake. Therefore, you may need to think about gradually cutting down the amount of bucket food you are feeding.
During the colder months, you also need to think about rugging your horse appropriately. Take into account temperature, whether they are stabled or living out, the horse’s body condition and whether they are clipped or not as these are all factors that impact on the weight or thickness of rug your horse requires. . Before the winter, take a look at your rugs and ensure that you have a range of stable and turnout rugs that fit your horseso you can make sure that your horse maintains a comfortable temperature throughout winter.
Fibre- The Key To Keeping Your Horse Warm
It’s important that you ensure your horse is still getting enough fibre in their diet. Fibre not only keeps the digestive system healthy, but when it is fermented it produces heat, helping your horse to keep warm in the winter months. If you are able to turn your horse out, make sure you supplement it with additional hay, haylage or a forage replacer as the grass will provide little nutritional value and in frosty or wet weather the horse may not be able to consume sufficient fibre from the pasture either. If your horse is maintaining weight well choose a low-calorie hay replacer to help keep the calories down.
How To Make Sure Your Horse Is Drinking Enough?
It’s vital that you make sure that your horse is drinking enough water during the winter, especially as research has shown that horses tend to drink less when the weather is colder. Feeding fibre is beneficial as it holds water in the gut and acts as a water reserve. , . You can also encourage water intake by feeding your horse a feed such as sugar beet that requires soaking.
If your horses are out in the field, make sure you check that all the automatic water drinkers are working and free from any ice. Alternatively, if you fill up your buckets manually, make sure that your horses have access to fresh and clean water at all times.
Dietary Changes You Should Be Making
As previously mentioned, if you are making any changes to your horse’s diet, it’s important that you do it gradually. By doing this you can reduce the risk of colic, which can occur from a sudden change in their diet. Therefore, introduce new feed slowly and do it over a period of at least a couple of weeks. Whilst your horse is moving from one feed to another, keep an eye out for any signs of upset to their digestive system and only change one aspect of their diet at once.
Hopefully our guide will help you to prepare for the winter amd care for your horse correctly during the colder months. Don’t worry Spring is just around the corner and you can say goodbye to those waterproofs and gloves!