Whilst winter is always a challenging time of year to feed horses sufficiently, along with recent increases in energy and fuel costs and the cost of living crisis, this year may feel particularly difficult.
However, with a little planning and some insight into equine nutrition, you can ensure that your horse stays healthy and well-fed throughout the winter months.
WHAT DO HORSES NEED TO BE HEALTHY IN WINTER?
Horses typically gain their nutrition from three places: water, forage and bagged feed. Just like humans, they need guaranteed macros of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Winter, however, poses a number of challenges.
Firstly, even if you are lucky enough to own a lot of land and your horses have access to a lot of grass, the nutritional value of that grass decreases dramatically during the cold winter months. In particular, the grass will have significantly less protein than you would find during the spring or summer.
With low levels of protein naturally occurring in their diet, horses will find themselves hungry and prone to overeating. However, due to the lack of minerals and nutrients in forage during winter, many owners find their horse’s diets could be lacking during the winter months – and could do with a few adjustments.
For a healthy horse, owners should pay attention to:
Many owners choose to use a ‘feed balancer’ during winter. These are formulated specifically to supply your horse with the minerals they are most commonly deficient in. Typically available in the form of powder or pellets, a feed balancer is added to your horse’s feed and helps keep your horse in optimum health throughout the cold, winter months!
ENSURING THEY GET ENOUGH WATER
Horses should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. Water is essential for maintaining proper hydration and digestion, and is especially important during winter when there is often a lack of fresh grass available (which is 75% water). Another important factor to consider is your horse’s levels of sodium. For a horse’s body to function properly, it will usually need at least 12 grams of salt per day. During cold weather, salt helps promote water consumption by the horse, which prevents dehydration.
Whilst bagged feed typically doesn’t make up a substantial proportion of a horse’s diet, due to the amount of time they will spend naturally foraging, it does have a significant influence on their health. Selecting a bagged feed that is high in fibre whilst still being balanced in on proteins, fats and minerals, is generally recommended. This will help keep a horse fuller for longer and reduce their likelihood of overeating. Meanwhile, bagged feed that is high in sugar and starch may lead to weight gain and increase the risk of insulin resistance.
LOOKING AFTER HORSES UNDER EXTRA STRESS
Horses that are under extra stress, such as those pregnant or participating in rigorous exercise or training, will require a greater level of support to ensure their vitamin and mineral levels are maintained. Paying extra attention to the nutrient levels of the forage available is critical in protecting the well-being and health of horses during these times!
HOW CAN YOU MAKE FEEDING YOUR HORSES MORE COST-EFFECTIVE DURING WINTER?
When it comes to cost-effectively feeding your horses this winter, there are a couple of things you can do to stretch your budget. Firstly, consider purchasing forage and bagged feed in bulk, as it is often cheaper to buy in larger quantities. If you choose to buy in bulk, ensure you store your hay and feed in appropriate, cool and dry spaces, and use it within the shelf life. We also recommend being mindful of the size of the bale of forage, as bigger is typically more cost-effective.
Additionally, if you don’t have the number of horses or space required to make bulk-buying work for you, you could consider sharing the cost of hay and feed with another horse owner in your area. This could reduce the burden on your wallet, and give you a great opportunity to meet other equine enthusiasts in your area!
ABOUT EQUESTRIAN SURFACES
Here at Equestrian Surfaces Ltd, we’ve been providing the highest quality surfaces for private, professional and commercial equine enthusiasts for over 35 years. As a family-run business, caring about the welfare of your horses is of utmost importance to us, which is why we craft our surfaces to ensure the well-being of your horses, through consistency and quality.
To get in touch with our team drop us a message here or ring us on 01282 834 970.