Winter is a challenging time for horse owners – as well as less daylight hours and dealing with the wet and mud, it can also be a time when some horses struggle to maintain their weight and condition.
If this sounds like your horse, knowing what to feed him can be confusing but, with a little forethought, if you adapt their feeding in time, you can help your horse maintain condition all year round.
Feeding your horse the right feed will leave him looking and feeling great.
Baileys Horse Feeds has put together some easy to follow tips to help you this winter.
1.Choose soft, leafy forage
Obviously hay should be clean and sweet smelling but feel it in your hand and look for the least stalky bales. The stalkier the grass when it was harvested, the less digestible it is so try to find hay with a higher leaf content, which will also be more nutritious, and feed it ad lib.
2. Feed forage alternatives
If your horse is not a good hay or haylage eater, consider providing some alternatives, like Alfalfa Plus Oil, soaked Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet and Fibre Plus Nuggets.
You can feed these in separate buckets alongside his normal forage ration, so that he can browse on them and increase his overall fibre intake.
3. Select the right feed for the job
While fibre is essential for a healthy gut, which will work more effectively to help the horse get the most from his feed, it’s not calorific enough to promote weight gain on its own, in many cases.
Fed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, you will get quicker and more cost-effective results by choosing a feed that’s formulated for weight gain, like Baileys Top Line Conditioning Mix or Cubes.
It will be safer for your horse too, as it’s more energy dense than a lower energy mix or cube and formulated so you don’t have to feed vast quantities to get results.
Find out if No4 Top Line Conditioning Cubes could suit your horse.
4. Feed little and often
This rule is even more important for the poor-doer who will benefit from as many small meals as you can fit into his day. You are mimicking nature more closely and avoiding overloading his digestive system so it has the best chance of making the most of every morsel.
5. Keep your horse warm and happy
Many horses lose weight in winter as they use so much more energy to maintain their body temperature. Keep the poor-doer well rugged and as content as possible, as a stressed horse will use valuable energy worrying.
6. Assess your horse’s worm burden and get his teeth checked regularly
This is important for every horse but, again, more so for the poor-doer to ensure his digestive system isn’t compromised.
7. Consider using a “digestive enhancer”
These include yeast, probiotics and prebiotics and are useful for promoting gut efficiency to help ensure your horse is making the most of what he eats. Baileys Digest Plus is a prebiotic which feeds the good gut bacteria so that they flourish at the expense of pathogenic species.
8. Contact a feed company Helpline
If things still don’t seem to be working for you, why not ring or email for advice, there may be one little thing that you’re missing.
Baileys nutritionists are both knowledgeable and practically experienced and can be contacted on 01371 850247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.