With the night’s drawing in and the days becoming colder we turn our attention to our horse’s winter feeding routine. Colder temperatures will put extra demands on the horse’s metabolism, pasture will have little nutritional value, water buckets will freeze and forage intake will decline as less time is spent grazing, therefore it is important that we reconsider our horse’s diet during this time. Here Words by Llinos Owen MSc, BSc (Hons), Dodson & Horrell Nutritional Advisor and Catherine Rudenko Dodson & Horrell Consultant Nutritionist explain the five key elements to keep in mind while feeding this winter.
There are 5 key elements to keep in mind:
1) Provide additional calories for those that tend to drop weight during the winter months.
More energy will be required when it’s colder for maintenance, condition, work and simply to keep warm. Forage is the foundation of all horse’s diets and it’s a very important factor to consider during winter. However, some horses, particularly working horses or poor doers may struggle to maintain condition on forage alone and additional feeding may be required to maintain condition through winter. You can increase your horse’s daily calorie intake by increasing the amount of your current hard feed or change to a feed that has a higher energy/calorific value, for example Dodson & Horrell’s Pasture Cubes is a great step up from the Classic Fibre Cubes. Alternatively, you could top up your horse’s current diet with sugar beet, oil (rapeseed, linseed or soya) or a pelleted high calorie supplement such a Dodson & Horrell’s Build & Glow.
2) Incorporate ingredients to aid digestive function and help provide warmth from the inside.
Forage is a fantastic form of internal ‘central heating’ for horses, when the bacteria in the hind gut start breaking it down, heat is generated as a by-product. However, during colder months reduced forage intake is common. Providing additional fibre sources such as Dodson & Horrell’s Classic Fibre Cubes or Kwikbeet is ideal to help maintain body temperature through the fermentation of digestible fibres in the hindgut, as well as keeping the digestive system healthy. Classic Fibre Cubes is low in starch and sugar and provides digestible fibre sources such as wheatfeed, oatfeed, soya hulls and unmolassed beet pulp, commonly referred to as “super-fibres”. Super fibres are highly digestible and have much higher energy/calorie levels than traditional fibre sources, making them a great and safe way to provide additional calories to maintain body condition during winter.
3) Boost antioxidants to support the immune system.
Reduced turnout, shorter daylight hours and cold weather can all put additional strain on your horse’s immune system. Dodson & Horrell’s Winter Health Mash includes a plant-based antioxidant package which works to increases plasma vitamin E (powerful antioxidant) along with Echinacea to support the body’s natural antioxidant capacity and immune function.
4) Ensure all the dietary components for hoof quality are supplied.
To give your horse’s hooves the best chance of coping with wet, muddy or hard and frozen ground, supply all the key components such as biotin, zinc and methionine for hoof health.
5) Maximise ways to increase water intake.
Horses need to stay well hydrated for optimal organ, digestive and metabolic function. Reduced water intake is very common during winter due to colder temperatures, and many horses would rather go thirsty than drink icy cold water. Soaking Dodson & Horrell’s Kwikbeet (unmolassed sugar beet) or Classic Fibre cubes will help increase both water and fibre intake. Also, Dodson & Horrell’s Winter Health Mash can be used to top-up your horse’s current diet to further encourage fluid intake.
Winter will always be a challenging time for horse owners but from a nutritional point of view, preparation is key.
For more information about any of the Dodson & Horrell palatable feeds, or if you would like a palatability sample please call 0845 345 2627 or use the Live Chat option to talk live to a nutritionist at www.dodsonandhorrell.com