For most horses and ponies, hay or haylage is the ideal way to make up for a shortfall in grazing over winter months but for those unable to manage long fibre due to poor teeth, a hay replacer is essential.
The delightful Ruby, who is 12.2hh and 32 years old, has been cared for by Redwings Horse Sanctuary since 1992. After spending a number of years in ‘guardian homes’, she has lived at the Ada Cole site in Essex since 2016. Ruby is very ‘smooth mouthed’ and as result, can no longer manage long fibre. Nicola Jarvis, Head Veterinary Surgeon at Redwings says “Ruby is a regular at my dental clinics and adored by the whole team. She started to get very loose droppings when fed hay as she was unable to chew her forage properly. We were also concerned about the risk of choke and colic if she continued on long fibre”.
Ruby’s winter diet
In winter months Ruby is turned out in a woodchip area during the day and stabled overnight which means 100% of her diet is provided by hay replacers. This consists of 2kg of SPILLERS™ HAPPY HOOF™, 2.5kg of SPILLERS Senior Super-Mash and 1.7kg of SPILLERS High Fibre Cubes (soaked to make a mash) per day divided into 4 equal meals, the last of which is given at 10pm to help avoid long periods without ‘forage’ overnight. When asked about Ruby’s diet Nicola Jarvis explained “This combination of feeds is ideal for Ruby as it provides plenty of fibre alongside vitamins and minerals for a balanced diet. The amounts fed are adjusted according to her weight and body condition score which are monitored regularly by the team at the farm. Ruby also knows what she likes and she finds the Senior Super-Mash so tasty!”
Tips for choosing a hay replacer
- Where possible include short chopped fibre to help increase time spent chewing.
- If your horse is no longer able to manage short chopped fibre, look for feeds that can be soaked to make a mash.
- Some feeds, including unmolassed sugar beet, are only suitable for feeding as partial hay replacers. Always check the feeding instructions.
- Ensure all hay replacers for laminitics are low in starch and sugar.
- Check whether your chosen hay replacer(s) contains added vitamins and minerals to ensure your horse’s diet is balanced without feeding unsuitably high levels of any vitamins and minerals - a nutritionist will be able to offer more advice on this.
Tips for feeding a hay replacer
- Divide hay replacers into a minimum of 4 meals, trying to ensure the first and last meals of the day are given as early/ late as possible to help avoid long periods without ‘forage’ overnight.
- Always weigh your feed(s) before soaking – the increase in volume after soaking can make it easy to under-estimate how much you are feeding!
- Field kept horses may need to be turned out individually or separated at meal times.
For more advice on feeding a hay replacer this winter contact the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 226626 or firstname.lastname@example.org