As autumn begins, grass growth slows and its nutritional profile becomes deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Horses tend to spend more time stabled and as a consequence it’s an important time to supplement their forage ration, says Anna Franklin, equine nutrition adviser at Blue Chip Feed.
Every horse is an individual and we should feed according to their condition and workload. But, as a general guide, 2-2.5% of their bodyweight can be fed daily for weight maintenance. An average 500kg horse could be fed around 10-12.5kg of feed a day and owners should aim for 80% of this to be forage (around 8-10kg).
As a trickle feeder, additional forage allows your horse to maintain a healthy gut and its fermentation in the hind gut keeps your horse warm and so serves a very important role. However, hay and autumn/winter grass is typically low in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, so the rest of your horse’s diet must be balanced to compensate for this. The inclusion of probiotics will also allow him to use the energy in his forage ration better.
For horses who lose weight more easily in the colder months, good quality protein is vital and, as hay is commonly low in this, look for additional feed with high-quality protein content, such as balancers or alfalfa-based products.
For those who gain weight easily, use the winter to kick start their weight-loss plan before the spring. Feed a forage-based diet, supported by a low-sugar and starch content balancer.
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