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.
1. Fibre is an essential part of a horses diet. To ensure your horse has enough fibre in his diet to keep his digestive system healthy, provide him with adlib hay or haylage. If turning him out in a field with a few friends, make sure you place the hay in enough piles with a good distance between each, so less dominant horses can still get their ration. Also when the weather is chilly, hay is a good way of keeping your horse cosy, because as he digests hay in his digestive tract, this produces heat.
2. Horses naturally graze for most of the day so to replicate this when stabled for long periods of time, provide him with a bucket of chaff with a few hidden succulents such as apples and carrots. This will keep him occupied for longer, preventing the development of stable vices, stress and even gastric ulcers.
3. Water is essential to keep your horse hydrated and help with his digestion no matter whether the temperature is cold or hot. Always ensure your horse has a constant supply of fresh water whether he’s stabled or turned out. In really chilly temperatures regularly check troughs to see if they’re frozen, breaking the ice if needed and removing the ice with a sieve.
4. To keep weight on older horses with less teeth or who have problems chewing course mix or dry cubes, try offering them soaked hi-fibre cubes made into a mash. You can try mixing it with water that's had the chill taken off it (luke warm), so it makes a warm and hearty meal.
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5. Even in winter if your horse is a good doer he’ll still require the right nutrients, so feed him a quality vitamin and mineral supplement added to a small amount of chaff to keep him healthy.
6. Just cause the weather gets colder this doesn't necessarily mean you increase your horse's concentrate ration. Use a weight tape and condition score him regularly by using a visual observation and feel of his body to recognise his correct feeding needs. If unsure and want expert advice, speak to a nutritionist.
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