Bad weather, sodden fields and shorter daylight hours often mean that horses are confined to their stables for longer than usual over the winter months, and ensuring the horse has access to ample forage is essential to keep your horse happy and healthy through this.
Horses are designed to trickle feed, ideally needing ad-lib forage, or at least to be fed every 4-5 hours, so if they are stabled they need to be regularly supplied with fibrous food throughout the day to ensure that gastric or other digestive problems don’t occur. Access to forage is also important to keep your horse occupied and content, and in cold weather forage is vital to help keep your horse warm, as the fermentation of forage within the digestive tract acts as your horses own internal central heating system.
Here are some of the best ways to ensure your horse stays content through long periods in the stable:
- Feeding from a haynet, as opposed to off the floor or from a haybar, has been shown to increase the amount of time it takes to eat the same amount of hay- one study showed that horses fed a certain amount of hay from the ground took an average 120 minutes to eat it, but those fed the same amount in a haynet took 193 minutes- suggesting that using a hay net will make hay last over 50% longer: ideal if you need to ensure that hay lasts as long as possible.
- For slim horses, provide forage ad-lib, and for tubbier horses, feed little and often, making sure they get 1.5% of their body weight of hay daily. For good-doers soaking hay is advisable, as this reduces the sugar content of the hay, making it a cheap and easy way to help control your horse’s calorie intake.
- Providing your horse with a pre and probiotic supplement, such as BioPro, helps to ensure that the microorganisms in the hind gut are healthy, especially when their routines or diets are being changed. Keeping the hind gut fully functioning ensures that the fibre you are feeding is being well utilised, and reduces the risk of digestive upsets.
- If your horse is confined or not being ridden as much as usual, reduce the amount of hard feed they are getting to help reduce the likelihood of digestive problems, and hopefully help to limit excess energy!
- Feeding Feedmark Fibre Blocks is also a great way to keep your horse busy – feed soaked with 5 litres of water to help keep your horse hydrated (cold water is known to put horses off drinking) or feed dry as a boredom breaker!
- Encourage your horse to drink by supplying a rock salt lick and providing warm water, as equines have been shown to prefer warm water during cold snaps.
- Try to exercise your horse as much as you can – if you can’t turnout or ride walk in hand, lunge, or use horse walkers to keep your horse moving as much as possible.
If you would like to talk to a nutritional advisor about any concerns you have with your horse, we are open 7 days a week. Call us on freephone 0800 585 525 or contact us via live chat at www.feedmark.com.