It can be quite tough when the weather changes, as your horse is in for longer and there’s less nutritious grass when he's turned out. Here are six tips to keep your horse healthy and in tip top condition this winter.Read More
Discover the golden rules of feeding your horse in this simple guide from Dodson & Horrell Nutritionist Anna Pyrah.Read More
Read our simple guide to help you make the best choice for your horse this winter.Read More
Even though the days are shorter, your horse will still enjoy his turnout time, so understand, protect and get the best from your grazing with these winter grass facts.Read More
Do you become baffled looking at the different nutrients on the back of your horse's feed bag, not knowing what each one is for? Here we break down some of the more common nutrients to give you a better understanding.Read More
Over feeding your horse can lead to all sorts of behavioural issues and weight gain. The key is to feed him according to the work he’s doing – but so many of us think their horse is doing more than he is.Read More
From rodent proofing your bins, to storing your feed and organising your utensils, it’s important to keep your feed room in order. So don your sweeping brush and rope in a friend or two, to make sure that your feed room is in tip top condition and free from pesky pests.
Store your sacks sensibly
Most horse feedstuffs will go mouldy or stale if the sack or container is left open to air and dampness, which is why feed manufacturers generally recommend that their products are stored in airtight containers.
To help keep your horse’s feed at its best keep it in an area that’s dry and out of direct sunlight, this will prevent both spoilage from damp and the deterioration of vitamins and oils, i.e. the feed’s nutritional value.
Tough plastic or metal feed bins will also help keep out pests, while stacking unopened bags of feed on pallets will help keep damp and moisture out.
Keep him safe
Another very important reason to store feed securely is to prevent your horse from gorging himself if he makes a great escape into the feed room when you’re not looking. The consequences of him helping himself to his feed can be fatal, particularly if he eats a large amount of dried sugar beet.
Put paid to pests
Feed should be stored in containers to prevent vermin such as rats and mice getting into it. Rats and mice don’t just eat your feed, but can also spread disease and infections to your horse, from their coats and urine so always keep your feed storage area swept clean and tidy to ensure it’s less attractive to mice and rats.
Also consider placing mice and rat traps in your feed room or keeping a stable cat to keep the vermin population down.
Seal any supplements
Take care to tightly reseal any tubs of feed supplements to retain their freshness. Consider tipping them into a metal container so that rats and mice can’t get to them.
Have a tidy up
With your feed safely stored, it’s time to move on to some quick tips to a tidier feed room.
Keep your tools, such as brooms and pitchforks handy and out from under your feet by hanging them on a wall-mounted tool holder.
If you have hay in your feed room, store your bales on wooden pallets to prevent them from getting mouldy from sitting on damp ground. If your feed-storage area is next to a dirt road or has dust issues, keep your hay supply covered.
Thoroughly clean your buckets, scoops and mixing spoons regularly in order to remove any mouldy old feed.
Make sure you check the expiry, sell by, or best before date of your feed before feeding it.
It's really important than a youngster has the correct feeding at the start of his life, as a lack of specific nutritional requirements can affect his health and well-being in the future.Read More
Our horses have evolved to eat a high fibre diet, and ensuring they can eat as nature intended is vital to their good health.Read More
our horse’s food goes on quite a journey from mouth to muck-heap – we follow the twists and turns of the equine digestive system to explain how it all works.Read More
The spring grass may be a welcome sight after months of winter mud but its high nutritional content can put a strain on your horse’s digestive system – and too much too fast could overload his body and lead to a potentially dangerous bout of gassy colic. Painful, damaging, and even fatal in some cases, the good news is that this type of colic is easily avoided, provided you understand the dangers and take steps to protect your horse’s gut.
Here Petplan vet of the year Gil Riley has all the advice you need to keep your horse’s digestive system on an even keel – and how to cope should the worst ever happen.
Beware sudden changes in diet
Remember those 10 golden rules of feeding we all learned in the Pony Club? Number one was ‘make any changes to your horse’s diet gradually’.
“The main cause of gassy colic is an overly rapid change in diet, most commonly the horse being put into a new paddock full of lush grass,” explains Gil.
“This is because gassy colic centres on the fact that the horse’s digestive system isn’t just about enzymes breaking down food, it’s about billions and billions of microbes in the large intestine, which help break down the plant fibre, or cellulose, found in grass. Cellulose is an extremely difficult structure to break down. Our guts wouldn’t be able to manage it, yet horses have to cope using a similar gastrointestinal set up to ours,” explains Gil.
“Whereas cattle, sheep and goats have a four-chambered stomach that mashes grass down and liquidates it as the animals regurgitate food repeatedly and ruminate, horses have a small stomach, small intestine, large intestine and back passage, and have to improvise to break down grass. Not being able to ruminate and vomit, they instead have developed a large intestine that’s basically a huge fermenting vat, packed with billions of microbes, and this in turn produces lots of gas.
“In a healthy horse, the delicate microbial population in the gut will be in balance, depending on what he’s regularly eating (ie, a diet of mainly hay or haylage) and how this food needs to be broken down. If the diet is suddenly changed, for instance your horse switches from being stabled and eating hay to being out and eating rich grass, the microbes can be caught out of step with the result that the food isn’t broken down properly. This can lead to an excess of gas production, which can quickly accumulate, causing problems.”
The horse has abut 30 metres of intestine and there are many sharp turns and hairpin bends to enable it to sit within the abdomen. If gas builds up in one area it struggles to pass through the loops of intestine, getting trapped and causing intense pain.
“Gassy colic is extremely painful and your horse will show typical colic signs – refusal to eat, obvious pain, kicking or biting at his flanks, etc,” says Gil.
“This pain is due to excess gas in the gut stretching and pressing on the gut wall, causing the pain and pressure receptors in the bowel wall to be activated. The symptoms can be dramatic, and mimic those found in spasmodic or impaction colic, so it’s your vet’s job to quickly ascertain which type it is.”
If emergency strikes
As with all types of colic, gassy colic is a veterinary emergency, so call your vet immediately and keep your horse – and yourself – safe until he or she arrives.
“If your horse is comfortable to walk, it seems reasonable to surmise that the movement of walking will help to massage the gut and also help the passage of the trapped wind,” says Gil. “It also gives the owner something to do and makes them feel useful as they wait for the vet to arrive.
There's now thought to be no truthto the old wives’ tale that a colicky horse shouldn’t roll. This will have no impact on the bowel moving one way or the other, so if your horse is very keen to roll, let him.
For me, the biggest danger is him getting cast in the stable, or injuring people near him, especially if they try to stop him rolling. So take him somewhere with a soft surface, such as a manège orfield, until the vet arrives, and let him roll if he really wants to.”
When help arrives
- The vet will first carry out an immediate clinical examiniation to ascertain whether there's any damage to the bowel
- He'll then check your horses pule as a racing pulse can be indicative of the colic progressing and causing damage to, or twist in, the bowel under the strain
- The next step is to give the horse pain relief - if he responds well, there's a good chance the colic is due to trapped gas, which will be processed in time which would lead to a full recovery.
- If he doesn't respond to pain relief, a twisted or displaced bowel is likely and this is far more dangerous.
- After pain relief is administered, your horse may be sedated for a full rectal examiniation, as the vet feels for damage in the bowel
- This may be followed by a peritoneal tap, where a needle is inserted into the horse's belly after a patch is shaved and scrubbed up. Your vet will draw off fluid, which should be pale yellow and free flowing like water. If it's in any way blood-tinged, murky looking or, in the worst-case senario contains food material, this shows there's inflammation in the gut wall or, in severe cases, a gut rapture, which is fatal.
How to prevent gassy colic
1. Make any changes in your horse's diet gradually. If your horse is going out into a new, lush field, for example, he should be turned out for a maximum of an hour a day at first, then gradually build this up over five or six days as your horse gets used to the new grass. If you’re making changes to his hard feed, the old feed should be gradually reduced as the new feed is slowly introduced over a period of days. The same goes for any changes in his hay or haylage
2. Always feed your horse at roughly the same time every day – if your horse is fed later than usual he may gorge his food due to hunger
Read more articles like this...
Keep your horse happy and healthy with these tips for top digestive health:
- Feed plenty of fibre
Fibrous foods should form the mainstay of your horse’s diet, so make sure he’s getting plenty of grass and hay.
- Feed little and often
Horses are better equipped to digest small meals, rather than the convenient but artificial pattern of two main meals a day, and introduce any new feedstuffs gradually to allow his system to adjust.
- Keep him hydrated
Always ensure he’s got fresh drinking water available, and if your horse does hard work (for example eventing or an endurance event) it’s important to add electrolytes to his water to avoid dehydration and replenish lost salts.
- Feed for his needs
Make sure you’re not over-feeding your horse – unless he’s in hard work (for example, in training for eventing) this means he only needs a small amount of hard feed.
- Keep things simple
The majority of pleasure horses don’t need much at all, and if he doesn’t need hard feed a low-calorie balancer is all he’ll need to provide the right vitamins and minerals.
It would be great to have your own personal nutritionist but unfortunately, that’s not practical. So as a helping hand, we’ve got loads of expert advice from some top equine nutritionists to help you really understand feeding. We’ll cover feeding, fat horses, skinny horses, lazy horses, competition horses and much more!
Feeding for energy but without the fizz
When feeding for energy, ensure you provide as much of the feed as possible in the form of forage. The higher the forage-to-concentrate ratio, the closer you’ll get to the horse’s natural way of feeding and the calmer he’ll be.