Winter usually means big changes to your horse’s routine, workload and diet as dark nights and freezing temperatures spell longer periods in the stable. Poor doers need more energy to keep condition and fizzy individuals can bubble over with excitement if they are fed an excessive amount of mix and cubes. Here are some handy nutrition tips to help your horse or pony weather the winter…
Horses are designed to function best on a high-fibre diet, so make sure you provide a daily ration in the form that nature intended.
Chewing fibre produces saliva, which helps to neutralise gastric acid and protect the stomach’s sensitive lining. Dengie offers a range of tried and trusted fibre feeds to help promote a healthy gut and they’re perfect as a total or partial forage replacer.
If your horse is spending more time cooped up in his stable, why not try Dengie Hi-Fi Senior, which is made from a blend of high-temperature-dried grasses and alfalfa, and ideal for those at rest or in light work?
Dengie’s Hi-Fi Lite is another low-energy feed that can be fed in place of hay, particularly when it is in short supply or of poor quality. This product is made from top-quality cereal straw and alfalfa with a light coating of molasses – and, what’s more, it’s approved by the Laminitis Trust. Winter is a good time of year for some horses and ponies, particularly those on the cuddly side, to get in shape for spring. Hi-Fi Lite can be fed with supplements and balancers as a low-calorie ration to help lose those extra pounds.
If you keep your horse or pony at a livery yard where only good-quality hay and haylage is available, replace some of this with a low-energy feed such as Hi-Fi Lite.
Fibre and oil feeds that are naturally low in starch and sugar are great for delivering condition without fizz.
Some horses and ponies, especially poor doers and fussy eaters, are prone to losing weight and condition during winter. It’s vitally important that they are given access to ad-lib forage and fibre feed. Dengie Alfa-A Oil provides a slow-releasing source of energy and the calorie value is the same as a conditioning mix, but the starch is considerably lower.
Many owners are unaware that horses tend to drink less in cold weather, which can lead to health issues.
Horses can drink between six and 14 per cent less in the winter, which could lead to a risk of impactions and dehydration-related performance issues. Using soaked fibre feeds such as Dengie’s Alfa-Beet will help to increase moisture intake, as well as provide highly digestible fibre.
Heavyweight rugs and a snug, draught-free stable can help to keep things warm and toasty, but you can’t beat your horse’s own internal central-heating system.
Bacteria and other micro-organisms generate heat as they digest the horse’s fibre feed in the large intestine, using a fermentation process. With fibre feeds such as those based on alfalfa, this can take up to 60 hours.
Beating the boredom
Fibre can be a great boredom buster to help horses and ponies.
Fibre takes a long time to chew, but it does not have to be eaten all in one serving. If the horse keeps returning to its feed during the course of the day, it doesn’t matter – in fact, it is more beneficial for a feed to be consumed this way.
Use small-holed nets help to make forage last longer and make things much more challenging by slipping several nets inside one another to create an even smaller gauge. This can even help good doers in the battle of the bulge because they can no longer gobble their hay.
A low-sugar lick allows the horse to top up on essential nutrients and provide stimulation in the stable.
Hanging root vegetables or hazel twigs around the stable can help to keep your horse amused for hours.
For further information or friendly feeding advice for your horse or pony, contact the Dengie Feedline, telephone 0845 345 5115 or log on to www.dengie.com.