Winter Feeding – Fibre Facts

horse grazing.JPG

A high fibre diet is the best thing for your horse and so for a trouble-free winter take a look at this helpful advice from the team at Dengie...

The winter months are a true test of our dedication to our horses as we spend more time battling poached gateways, frozen taps and mucking out. The dark evenings leave less time for riding so it can feel like it’s all work and no play! Our horses and ponies will probably spend more time confined to their stable or a squelchy paddock over the winter and may need a nutritional helping hand to keep them healthy and happy.

Fibre as fuel

Fibre provides slow-release energy, making it the ideal way to provide your horse with enough energy, without the risk of over-excitement or fizziness.

alf-alfa a oil

Did you know that fibre can provide as much energy as mixes and cubes? For example, Dengie Alfa-A Original contains the same level of energy as a cool mix at 10MJ/kg but with about ten times less starch.

Oil is another slow-release energy source, and when combined with a good quality fibre, such as alfalfa in Dengie Alfa-A Oil, it can provide as much energy as a conditioning mix or cube, contains no added sugar and just 2% starch.

Winter weight loss

If your horse is carrying a little too much weight, winter presents the ideal opportunity for him to lose a few founds.  Try not to be tempted to over-feed and over-rug your horse if he’s a good-doer.  The best way to keep him warm is to feed plenty of low-calorie fibre feeds such as Dengie Hi-Fi Lite or Hi-Fi Good-Doer as heat is produced when fibre is fermented in the digestive system.

Keeping your horse hydrated

Some horses become reluctant to drink when the weather is colder.  To help your horse stay hydrated feed soaked feeds such as Dengie Alfa-Beet or Alfalfa Pellets, to increase moisture intake. 

Feeding golden oldies

Dengie hi fi lite and good doer.jpg

Winter feeding preparation is key for golden oldies, keep a close eye on their condition especially if you know they have lost weight in previous winters. Start feeding a little earlier as it’s much easier to keep weight on than trying to promote weight gain in the winter months.  For those with poor teeth Dengie Meadow Grass with Herbs, Hi-Fi Senior and soaked products such as Alfa-Beet or Grass Pellets are highly digestible, promote weight gain and are soft and easy to chew.

Winter Feeding Tips

  • Use fibre and oil as conditioning sources to help avoid over-excitable behaviour
  • Fibre is the horse’s central heating system – keep your horse warm by feeding lots of fibre
  • Use small-holed haynets to help keep your horse occupied and to make his forage ration last longer
  • Use the winter months to help promote weight loss, if needed.  Try not to over-rug or over-feed and try to keep exercising as much as the winter weather will allow
  • Feed a high-fibre diet to help promote digestive health, maintain regular bowel movements and help reduce the risk of colic

Quality Grass All Year Round

dengie Grass Products Range

As the nutritional value of grass decreases and turn out time is reduced, horses may start to lose condition. Why not bring the paddock into the stable with Dengie’s range of grass products. 

Produced using the finest grasses grown by UK farmers, Dengie Meadow Grass with Herbs and Grass Pellets are made from 100% natural ingredients and are FREE from molasses, artificial preservatives, flavours and additives, cereals, straw and GM ingredients.  Naturally sweet, high in fibre and highly digestible, Meadow Grass with Herbs can be used as a partial hay replacer or be included as part of the bucket feed.  Grass Pellets are ideal for snack balls helping to keep the stabled horse occupied and provide natural foraging behaviour.

Contact the team

For advice, you can call the Dengie Horse Feeds Helpline on 0845 345 5115 and, to stay up-to-date with all the latest news follow @DengieHorseFeed on Twitter and @DengieHorseFeeds on Facebook.

More advice from Dengie

8 ways to reduce the risk of laminitis

Decrease your horse’s risk of laminitis by following expert advice from Spillers nutritionist Clare Barfoot.

as we begin to turn our horses out to grass for longer periods of time, it’s essential to be mindful of the risk of laminitis. SPILLERS® registered nutritionist Clare Barfoot brings you eight, easy to follow, tips to help keep your horse or pony safe this spring.

1. Act sooner rather than later

The grass starts to grow actively when the soil temperature consistently reaches 5 degrees and can be very calorific! For every kilogram (dry matter) eaten, your horse may consume up to 75g of sugar and 500g of Water Soluble Carbohydrate (WSC). Studies have shown that un-muzzled ponies can consume up to 5% of the own bodyweight in grass. For a 500kg horse, this would equate to a whopping 1.9kg of sugar and 12.5kg of WSC per day from grass alone.

2. Slim your horse down

If your horse is overweight use what’s left of the colder weather to instigate a slimming programme. Reduce feed or change to a lower calorie alternative and switch to a lower energy forage. Soaking hay for at least three hours, or ideally up to 16, will reduce the WSC level, making it safer for those susceptible to laminitis.

3. Use fewer rugs

Fewer rugs or no rugs at all will cause your horse to have to burn off a few extra pounds to keep warm.

4. Restrict time out at pasture

Consider turning your horse out at night when the grass will contain less fructan (a storage form of sugar). Install a strip grazing system to moderate the amount of grass your horse has access to.

5. Try a grazing muzzle

A grazing muzzle can reduce intake by up to 80% but it must be properly fitted, allow drinking and you must allow your horse time to get used to it before leaving it on for long periods of time. Try it out in his stable before so you can stay around and observe how he reacts to it. Extend the period of time he wears it for each time until he’s happy to have it on.

6. Feed an alternative safe source of forage

For horses and ponies at very high risk of laminitis consider removing them from pasture altogether. Instead feed them a suitable forage of short clipped fibre that’s approved by the Laminitis trust.

7. Beware of late frosts

On sunny mornings fructan can accumulate to high levels, which can trigger a snowball effect of events eventually leading to laminitis.

8.Get him moving

Regular exercise will help keep your horse’s waistline in check and support a healthy metabolism.

Seek advice from the experts

For free advice on how to help keep your horse safe from laminitis ring a friendly SPILLERS® Care-Line advisor on 01908 226626 or visit

Helping horses gain weight

horse eating from a bucket

For many people it's getting weight off a horse that's usually the problem but this isn't always the case as some horses simply don't maintain their body weight that easily. Here the experts at Dengie offer some simple tips to help you tackle the problem.

If you own a horse that doesn't maintain weight easily, it can prove to be a real challenge. Ideally, your horse's ribs shouldn’t be visible, but they should be easily felt if you run your hand along their side.

We also want our horses to have good topline but a common complaint from horse owners is that their horse hasn't got enough. Building topline is achieved through the horse being worked correctly and his diet supplying the quality protein he needs to build muscle.

One solution can be to feed Alfalfa. Alfalfa provides the quality protein essential for improving topline, muscle condition and repair. Naturally low in sugar and starch, independent research has also shown that alfalfa is a natural buffer to acidity in the digestive tract.

Find the right fibre feed

Each of the feeds in the Dengie's conditioning fibre feeds are based on alfalfa

How to feed for condition - top tips!

  • Feed your horse little and often (choose high-fibre, non-heating feeds)
  • Ensure hay or haylage is of good quality, sweet-smelling, free from dust and mould spores
  • Try to allow your horse ad-lib access to a forage source such as hay or haylage, especially when stabled
  • Feed your horse a yeast culture to encourage efficient fibre digestion in the hind gut
  • Make sure vitamin and mineral requirements are being met. If necessary, top up with a broad-spectrum supplement such as Dengie Performance Vits & Mins or a balancer such as Dengie Alfa-A Balancer
  • If you're looking for a conditioning fibre feed that doesn't contain alfalfa then take a look at Dengie Meadow Grass range. Made from Lincolnshire's finest meadow grasses and oil grown by UK farmers

For advice from the Dengie nutrition team or to review your horse or pony's diet, call the Dengie Feedline on 0845 345 5115 (call charges may apply).

For more information visit the Dengie website

Feeding for Temperament

Discover how to best feed your horse for his temperament with this expert advice from Dodson & Horrell Nutritionist Sarah Kearney.

All horses have an embedded flight instinct and so in certain situations this can lead them to become stressed and anxious, sometimes leading to the development of unwanted behaviours such as barging, bolting, bucking, rearing or biting. This can be down to a number of factors including previous unpleasant experiences, management, feeding, genetic influences or environmental changes; however the key to solving the problem is to find the trigger point for your horse and take the appropriate steps to regain equilibrium.

Has your horse's behaviour changed?

Firstly take a step back and ask yourself some key questions such as ‘When did this behaviour begin?’ and ‘Did it coincide with any changes that I made to my management routine?’  Sometimes the answer can lie in a simple place, for example your horse does not like to live on its own, leading to increased anxiety levels and making them difficult to ride. Whilst this may not be quick to solve you can work with the issue as you know where the behaviour is stemming from.

Is his diet the problem?

Does your horse's change in behaviour coincide with a change in his management or e.g access to lush spring grass?

Does your horse's change in behaviour coincide with a change in his management or e.g access to lush spring grass?

It's also important to remember that your horse’s diet may be affecting its behaviour and that dietary needs constantly adapt throughout the year due to natural fluctuations in their forage source and therefore hard feed needs to be adjusted accordingly. Dodson & Horrell’s helpline often gets calls during the early spring months from people struggling with horses that are suddenly over excitable and a little difficult to handle and quite often it coincides with the beginning of grass growth.

The spring flush of grass is naturally higher in sugar and calories, which for example if you are feeding a conditioning mix to maintain the weight through the winter, all adds up to a high calorie and therefore high energy diet that may be exceeding the requirements of that horse, leading to exuberant behaviour. If this is the case then determine what you need from your horse at the current time, if workload decreases or they gain weight then drop down to a lower calorie feed or reduce the amounts of your current feed and ‘top-up’ with a good quality balancer, which offers lower levels of calories but ensures your horse is getting a balanced level of vitamins and minerals. It is also usually a good idea to look for a feed that is high in fibre, providing lower amounts of starch and sugar if your horse is prone to displays of exuberance.

Dodson & Horrell Brand Ambassdor Laura Collett trusts the nutrition advice she gets from Dodson & Horrell

Dodson & Horrell Brand Ambassdor Laura Collett trusts the nutrition advice she gets from Dodson & Horrell

For the hard working horse

If you have a horse that is working hard or needs to gain weight but is sensitive to higher levels of starch and sugar, a typical conditioning feed may not be appropriate for them.  Most feed companies offer a low starch alternative to a conditioning or competition feed.  These will typically contain oil (usually soya or linseed) and are a great way to include a real boost of slow releasing calories into the diet, providing over two times as much digestible energy as the same amount of a cereal. 

Can't find the root of the problem?

If there just seems to be no reason for the exuberant behaviour and all management and feeding options have been explored then feeding a calming supplement is usually a popular option.  There are an abundance of products on the market and so it is important to remember that what works for one horse may not necessarily work for another, leading to a little trial and error when finding the one for you. If you are thinking of adding in a calming supplement into your horse’s diet then do contact a helpline to discuss.

For further information please visit the Dodson & Horrell website or call the free helpline on 0845 345 2627 to speak to one of our friendly, expert nutritionists.





How much to feed your horse

If you’re struggling to know how much to feed your horse, fear not! We’ve got the answers to some very common questions on that very subject right here.

Will grass provide your horse with everything he needs?

horse eating grass

Unfortunately not! Grass may provide sufficient calories and even protein for horses at rest or in light work a large study has shown that UK grazing will not meet their mineral requirements.  For example, grass only provides around half the quantity of zinc a horse needs every day and this can result in poor hoof health.  Horses that maintain weight well on grazing alone don’t need lots of concentrate feed but they still need extra vitamins and minerals. To make sure your horse’s diet is balanced, consider feeding a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement.

How much hay or haylage should you feed?

Forage is an essential part of all horses and pony diets. Horses have evolved as trickle-feeders and feeding insufficient forage can result in problems such as stereotypic behaviours, gastric ulcers and/ or colic. Horses will eat between 2-2.5% of their bodyweight as dry forage per day. Depending on how much work you do with your horse some forage may be replaced by concentrate feed. However, if your horse needs to lose weight it may be necessary to restrict forage intake. We recommend a restriction of no less than 1.5% of body weight unless under veterinary supervision.

How much concentrate feed is safe to feed in one meal?

small horse feed

Your horse’s stomach is very small in comparison to the rest of the digestive system. As a result feeding large concentrate meals can increase the risk of problems such as colic. You should aim to feed no more than 500g/100 bodyweight per meal. For example a 500kg horse should have a maximum of 2.5kg of food per meal (this includes concentrates, chaff, sugar beet etc.).

Top meal size tip!

Aiming for smaller feeds more often, is much better for your horse’s digestive system and feeding a balancer which includes a probiotic can help the digestibility of fibre, meaning your horse will get twice as much out of the fibre in his diet. This will help him put on weight and condition without having to over-feed him.