1. Provide plenty of forage – good quality forage should always be the foundation of your horses’ diet which during the winter can be provided as hay or haylage. Horses have a specialised digestive system designed for an almost constant supply of forage, so during the winter it is important to feed plenty of forage on a continual or ‘ad-lib’ basis. Forage not only supplies essential calories for your horse, but through the process of microbial fermentation, heat is released as it is digested, keeping your horse warm from the inside out! Additionally, a constant supply of forage will ensure your horse’s gut microbes are kept healthy and healthy microbes = a healthy horse!a
2. Supply essential micronutrients – Although feeding ad-lib forage in winter is an excellent way of keeping your horse in good condition, it is unlikely to provide a fully balanced supply of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and quality protein such as lysine. Providing a wholesome nutritious balancer will help meet these micronutrient requirements for optimum health and condition.
3. Monitor weight and condition regularly – regular use of weight tapes and a suitable body condition scoring chart such as that available from KER - https://ker.com/tools/library/horse-body-condition-score-chart/ are essential to monitor your horses condition over the winter months. Recording body weight and condition in this way will help you assess your horses’ nutritional needs throughout the winter and adjust the diet as necessary.
4. Provide additional feeds as necessary – horses that are struggling to hold weight and condition will normally need extra feed in addition to their forage and balancer. Excess calories can be introduced in the form of good quality fibre and micronised cereals, which are easily digested and will help add weight and condition. High oil feeds like micronised linseed can also boost calorie intake and therefore weight gain during winter.
5. Ensure your horse has access to water – water is particularly important in winter when horses may be inclined to drink less. Water troughs should be checked regularly and any ice broken. Water should be clean and fresh and if cold, warm water can be added to help encourage drinking. Adding a little salt to feeds is also a great way to increase water intake and keep your horse healthy and hydrated.
Smart Horse Nutrition is a new feed company on mission to allow you to take control of your horse’s diet. By providing you with the 3 essential building blocks of a balanced diet – micro nutrients (Smart Balance), macro nutrients (Smart Muesli) and fibre, Smart allows every horse’s diet to be tailored exactly to its individual needs, for the benefit of your horse’s health and your pocket.
For more information see www.smarthorsenutrition.com