Whilst January is a month of cold mornings and trying to work off those extra mince pies from Christmas for us, many of our poor doers often start struggling to maintain their weight around this time of year. So, as many of you have to think about feed to keep weight on, we've put together some pointers to help your horse hang on to those extra pounds!
Don’t forget forage!
• Forage - for example; grass,hay, haylage and hay replacer - should make up the majority of your horse's calorie intake. At this time of the year, even if you are still able to turn out, the amount of grass your horse is actually eating could be too low. This means that you might need to supplement their intake with extra forage in their stables or paddocks.
• Another benefit of forage; as fibre is broken down in your horse's hind gut heat is produced - which literally warms them from the inside out!
• As a guide, all horses and ponies need a minimum of 1.5% of their bodyweight of forage (dry matter) per day – for example; 7.5kg each day for a 500kg horse. Unfortunately it’s impossible for you even to estimate how much your horse is eating in the field so as a guide, ignore grass intake when turning out for only a few hours and feed a minimum of 0.75% bodyweight (dry matter) to horses which are stabled for 12 hours.
• Many believe haylage is richer/more nutritious, therefore less is needed in comparison to hay, but actually, due to the higher water content of haylage, you need to offer 25-50% more than you would as hay (10-11kg of haylage in place of 7.5kg of hay.)
• If you have an older horse who struggles to manage hay or haylage due to teeth issues, then you will need to offer a hay replacer. You can find more information on feeding older horses on our senior horse section or by ringing our Care-Line on 01908 226626 .
Feed for weight gain
• Before jumping straight in and buying your horse a conditioning feed, first of all make sure that your horse is on their full ration of lower energy/calorie feed.
• If you find your horse is struggling to manage weight on their full ration of low energy/calorie feed then you will need to consider a higher calorie/energy option.
• It is impossible to provide more calories without increasing energy intake, but if you want to try to avoid fizzy/heated behaviour, use feeds that offer high fibre and oil but lower starch levels.
• If your horse really struggles, calorie intake can be increased by adding oil. Any oil can be used, rapeseed, soya, vegetable etc…it is the quality rather than type that is important. It is best to speak to a nutritionist before doing so however as additional vitamin E may also be needed so the extra oil can be broken down.
• If your horse finds being stabled for longer periods of time difficult and stresses off weight, try something to distract them. Treat balls, licks, hidden carrots round their stable, playing the radio, are all worth a go!
• Make sure they are always toasty under their rugs. Although they can walk around and warm up in their paddock, when stood in the stable they don’t have the option.
• Although traditionally thought to help keep them warm, pouring boiling water over feed can damage it nutritional value, so best to avoid doing this, we need them to get all the nutrients they can from their feed!