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Considerations for Winter Feeding

When feeding a horse during winter, there are several considerations to keep in mind to ensure the health and well-being of your animal. Here are some important factors to consider:

  1. Adequate forage: Horses are natural grazers and require constant access to forage. In winter, when pasture grass may be scarce or of lower quality, it's essential to provide enough high-quality hay or other forage sources to meet their nutritional needs. This helps maintain body temperature and keeps the digestive system functioning properly. The rule of thumb is 1 - 2% bodyweight per day. Even if you have pasture, consider adding a good quality grassy lucerne which contributes to protein requirements. A round bale is a cost effective way to provide extra forage.

  2. Increased energy requirements: Horses burn more calories to stay warm in cold weather, so their energy requirements may increase. Consider adding hard feeds to their diet to provide the additional energy they need. We add soy bean meal - mainly for its high protein and vitamin E content. We also feed whole oats. We feed lucerne chaff which is high in calcium. For our older horses we feed copra meal for a low GI source of calories.

  3. Water availability: Adequate hydration is crucial for horses throughout the year, including winter. It's important to ensure they have access to clean, unfrozen water at all times. If you have had a frost, break up the surface in the morning so that horses can access water.

  4. Body condition monitoring: Regularly monitor your horse's body condition during winter. Cold weather can mask weight loss, and horses with insufficient body fat may struggle to stay warm. Adjust the feeding regimen as necessary to maintain a healthy body condition score. We recommend taking pictures of your horses frequently so that you can compare their condition over time.

5. Salt and mineral supplementation: we supply at least 30g of plain salt in feed every day. Salt requirements increase to compensate for sweat losses for horses in work. We also feed our horses Sound Advice Calm Mix and Sound Advice Trace Mix to meet their magnesium and trace mineral needs. This is particularly important if your horse's diet consists mainly of hay, as it may lack certain nutrients.

6. Shelter and protection: Horses should have access to a shelter or windbreak to protect them from harsh weather conditions, such as wind, rain, and snow. Adequate shelter helps reduce heat loss and keeps horses more comfortable.

7. Feeding schedule: Consider splitting the horse's daily feedings into smaller, more frequent meals. This can help with digestion and maintain body temperature as the digestion process generates internal heat.

8. Regular dental care: Ensure your horse's teeth are in good condition before winter to promote efficient chewing and digestion of feed. Regular dental check-ups and floating (smoothing the sharp points on teeth) are essential.

9. Exercise and mental stimulation: Even during winter, horses need exercise and mental stimulation to maintain their overall well-being. Regular turnout or exercise sessions, weather permitting, can help prevent boredom and promote a healthy metabolism.

Remember, every horse is unique, and their specific dietary requirements may vary. We can assist you to assess your horse's individual needs and design a feeding plan tailored to them.

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