With many countries back in lockdown, none of us are currently able to go on holiday (as we are all too aware), but that’s not to say that our horses can’t have their own winter break. All horses deserve a holiday every now and then to allow them time to recover both physically and mentally, it also gives them an opportunity to relax and just be a horse, enabling them to come back fresh and ready to have some fun next year.
With more uncertain times ahead, many people are unable to see their horses as much as they would like, if at all. Therefore, it may be the perfect time to give your horse a well-deserved winter break.
Don’t Forget Their Nutritional Needs...
If you are turning your horse away for the winter, then it is important not to forget about their nutritional needs. Horses are natural grazing animals and a few months out at pasture can do them the world of good to have their own little holiday. Horses will naturally graze/chew for up to 18 hours a day, therefore forage should form the main ration of their diet to allow them to do so. As trickle feeders it is important that they eat little and often to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system and reduce the risk of colic or gastric ulcers.
During the winter months grass may not be as readily available or have particularly good nutritional value. It may be necessary to provide additional forage in their field such as hay or haylage, especially if there is frost or snow. This will help to satisfy their natural grazing behaviour and increase their calorie intake. Having more than one pile of hay in the field is a good idea as this will encourage your horse to move around, this method is particularly helpful if you have more than one horse in the field as it reduces the risk of fighting.
A Well-Balanced Diet is Key to a Healthy Horse
It is likely that on a forage only diet, your horse will not be fulfilling their nutritional needs, so providing a vitamin and mineral supplement would be beneficial. Winter is the ideal time to allow good doers to drop off a bit of weight naturally, so avoid the urge to feed lots of hard feed - just provide a vitamin and mineral supplement (with a small quantity of chaff if required). Discover our range of vitamin and mineral balancers here.
For horses that struggle to maintain weight, Condition & Shine is the perfect supplement to help preserve condition and encourage weight gain. Some horses may require larger amounts of hard feed during winter, if you have questions regarding your horse’s diet, please contact out Nutritionists.
Top Tips When Turning Your Horse Away for Winter:
Keep your horse hydrated: Ensure that your horse always has access to clean, fresh drinking water and when it is especially cold be sure to remove any ice.
Make changes slowly: it may be tempting to just release your horse out into a big green field and be done with it, however, it is important to decrease workload and quantities of hard feed gradually so as not to shock the horse's digestive system.
Keep checking: Monitor your horse’s condition throughout their ‘holiday’ and adjust their feed ration appropriately if required.
Think of their hooves: Speak with your farrier about possible shoeing changes or the possibility of removing them all together whilst the horse is on holiday (if they are not already barefoot).
Finally, make sure that your horses are checked on regularly. This will allow you to give them any additional forage or feed they may require, water can also be checked, and rugs adjusted. This will also give you the ideal opportunity to check for any injuries or ailments such as mud fever or rain scald.