Question: My horse is lacking condition after the winter months – can you provide advice on what I need to feed?
By Anna Welch, BVSc, BSc, MRCVS. Veterinary Nutritionist, TopSpec.
Most horses do best when fed all the forage that they can eat (i.e. ad-lib). This is a more natural way of feeding than offering large feeds. It usually makes sense to buy good quality hay or haylage because the more nutrients provided by forage, the less hard feed your horse will need. However there are exceptions, such as laminitic horses.
In order for your horse to get the most from their feed, I would suggest basing their hard feed ration on a top specification feed balancer. Conditioning feed balancers such as TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer and TopSpec Senior Feed Balancer provide protein, vitamins and minerals to balance your horse’s diet and allow it to be utilised more efficiently. High quality protein (which is provided in TopSpec conditioning feed balancers) is important for building muscle and topline. The inclusion of yeast products improves the digestibility of fibre and allows your horse to gain more from his diet.
When feeding for condition, nutrient dense products are most effective, not only to achieve high forage to concentrate ratios but to keep meal sizes small. If maximum meal sizes are exceeded, feed will be forced through the stomach and small intestine too quickly and overload the horse’s large intestine, or hindgut. This reduces the efficiency of digestion in the hindgut meaning that your horse will obtain fewer nutrients from his forage. For a 500kg horse, meal sizes should be no more than 2kg (approximately one heaped Stubbs scoop of cubes).
You should also use a conditioning chop e.g. TopChop Grass even though the small amount you feed will mean that it only makes a small difference. A much bigger difference to your horse’s condition will come from feeding conditioning cubes e.g. TopSpec CoolCondition Cubes. These are low in sugar and starch and cereal-grain-free but high in super-fibres. They are ideal for horses that need condition, without ‘fizz.’
For horses that need an exceptionally nutrient dense product TopSpec Super Conditioning Flakes can be used, providing excessive amounts are not fed as they contain 36% starch. For example a 16hh horse should not receive more than a heaped Stubbs scoop (1.3kg) of flakes in a meal.
If your horse is not a fussy feeder, soya oil could also be added as a source of ‘Non-Heating’ calories. Do not exceed 200mls per feed.
TopSpec can be contacted, free of charge, on their Multiple-Award-Winning-Helpline Tel: 01845-565030 or visit www.topspec.com