Different seasons bring about different requirements when it comes to horse nutrition. Ashley Neely of Bluegrass Horse Feeds gives you a seasonal guide to equine nutrition.
During winter our horse’s weights fluctuate with the changes in temperature, however, some breeds gain more weight than others predisposing them to health issues such as obesity.
As temperatures decrease, horses naturally increase their forage intake to create more heat from hindgut fermentation. Studies on native breeds have shown them to slow their metabolic rate which allows them to use all nutrients from poor quality forage.
Good bacteria, fungi and protozoa aid the fermentation process producing a by product known as volatile fatty acids. These are absorbed by the blood stream and transported to sites for energy stores in the form of fat or glycogen. These energy stores are used when required such as during exercise and they are known as slow release energy sources, unlike cereals that provide quick 'buzzy' energy. Provide a minimum of 1.5-2 per cent of body weight in forage per day. Poor quality forage should be supplemented with a fortified feed or balancer to ensure your horse is receiving sufficient vitamins and minerals. A balancer such as Bluegrass Stamm 30, is ideal for 'Good Doers', when weight gain is not desired.
As workload is increased extra energy is required. It is important to understand the level of work your horse is at and whether or not an additional fortified feed or balancer is required to meet their energy and nutrient demands.
Feeding excessive energy can lead to problems to growth in young horses as well as behavioral problems. The Bluegrass Horse Feeds range contains feeds with the horse owner in mind by using super fibres and alternative slow release energy sources, sufficient energy is provided without the undesirable 'fizz'.
Unusual eating behaviours known as pica are commonly observed by horse owners during the winter months as horses are stabled for longer times and natural nutrients supplies are limited. Eating soil or wood can often be a sign of horses seeking alternative sodium sources due to a lack of sodium within their current diet.
“Horses aren’t considered to be able to seek out sources that may be lacking in their diet” – Catherine Whitehouse M.S, Kentucky Equine Research Equine Nutritionist.
Kentucky Equine Research recommend providing a non- flavoured salt blocks. Those with low salt diets may benefit from the addition of 30-60 grams of white salt within their feed per day.
During colder weather a fresh water should be supplied and monitored, frozen water should be broken to ensure they are able to drink and all automatic system checked. It is good practice to provide additional water buckets in case automatic systems become frozen.