Four common winter feeding problems

Are you worried that your winter feeding regime’s not working? Expert nutritionist Clare Barfoot’s here to help address four common winter feeding problems.

My horse’s behaviour is fizzy

Possible causes

A diet that’s too high in starch (a form of instant energy), together with restricted winter turnout, means your horse will be buzzing with energy that he may not need!


If your horse displays fizzy behaviour, switch to a diet that’s low in starch, but high in fibre. This will help to keep your horse in a calmer frame of mind and replicate the more natural, forage-based diet he’s evolved to live on. This means lots of hay, haylage and as much turnout as possible.

Look for cubes rather than a mix, such as Spillers Horse & Pony Cubes – ideal for horses in light to medium work. If you want him to gain a little bit of weight, try giving an additional oil too.

More tips on feeding forage

My horse has lost weight over winter

Possible causes

A natural drop in the energy level of your horse's main forage source, namely grass, together with the cold weather cause him to use up lots of calories just to keep warm. 

His energy requirements may increase by 30% or more in winter in order to maintain his body temperature. 


First off, bear in mind that it's perfectly normal for your horse to put on weight in spring and summer and then lose these extra pounds over winter. However, if he needs extra calories, first of all make sure you're feeding the recommended amount of feed. If you are, then consider adding a conditioning cube or mix, and give this alongside ad-lib, good quality forage and a high oil conditioning chaff. 

Is your hay good enough?

My horse has a dull coat and poor hooves

Possible causes

A forage-only diet in winter can mean your horse might be missing out on the essential nutrients he needs.


If your horse is only eating grass and hay, or you're not feeding the full recommended amount of a particular hard feed, try giving him a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement or low-calorie feed balancer to balance out any deficiencies. This should ensure his body has all it needs to fuel his extremities. 

My horse has gained weight

Possible causes

Extra time standing in the stable, eating to keep himself occupied and not burning off those extra pounds all can lead to weight gain over winter.


Simply give your horse fewer calories and make him move more! Reduce the calorie content of his hay by soaking it, ideally for 16 hours (but definitely more than three hours), or try mixing some oat straw in with his hay ration to dilute it.

To extend eating time, feed hay and haylage in a small-holed net. Switch his calorie-laden hard feed for a low-calorie balancer, such as Spillers Lite Balancer, mixed with a low calorie chaff. 

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