Horses are sensitive creatures and any sudden changes to their management, such as travelling, a weekend away or moving yard, may cause digestive disturbance, reduced appetite and increased stress.
Olivia Colton MSc, Senior Nutritionist at Feedmark, provides five top tips on how to help your horse through periods of change.
1. Take forage with you
Abrupt changes of hay or haylage can have a negative effect on your horse’s digestive system.
If you're travelling or your horse is staying away for a few days, take forage with you to reduce the chance of digestive disturbance.
If you do need to change your horse’s forage, try to do so gradually, over the course of a week.
2. Increase grazing time gradually
Changes to grazing should also be gradual. For example, if your horse goes from no or little turnout to 12 hours out in the field every day, it will have a negative effect on his digestive system. Instead, gradually increase turnout time.
3. Have an appetising treat to hand
If you're changing your horse’s hard feed, again this should be gradual. If management changes have caused your horse to lose interest in feed, adding something appetising to the food may encourage him to tuck in.
Traditionally, molasses would have been added, but many horses and ponies now require a low-sugar diet, so a better option may be the addition of mint or fenugreek, which are known to be very palatable.
4. Use a familiar bucket
Horses can be reluctant to drink abnormal tasting or smelling water. Using a familiar bucket can encourage your horse to drink, and using containers of water from the old source can help your horse to settle.
Another option is to add something to the water to mask the taste changes – apple juice or sugar beet water can both help.
If you're lucky enough to have automatic drinkers, make sure a bucket is also on offer until you know your horse is drinking from these happily.
5. Promote a healthy gut
Providing your horse with a pre and probiotic supplement will help to maintain healthy gut microbe population through periods of change and reduce the chance of digestive problems.
For more advice and tips on horse nutrition visit www.feedmark.com.
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