Being proactive about your winter feeding regime can prevent accidents, reduce the risk of excessive weight loss or gain, and keep you and your horse comfortable and healthy through the long winter months.

Forage is not only important for a horse’s mental and physical well-being, it also helps with warmth during winter. When horses chew grass fibres and pass them down to the digestive system, they are broken down in the body to create heat. Taking a horses forage source away during the winter, effectively is taking away his own internal heating system. Because of various factors, such as training and stabling regimes, horses often have restricted access to pasture and turnout, so it is up to us to make sure they our horses an appropriate alternative fiber source (like slow-feeders) to satisfy their need to graze constantly.

How Beneficial Is Your Hay?

Paying for good-quality forage, whether it’s hay cubes, haylage or grass in the pasture, is hugely beneficial to your horses wellbeing. It can save you money too – since you will feed less grain, and have a healthier, happier horse.

Testing the quality of the forage you give your horse can help you understand whether it contains the right amount of nutrients for a balanced diet. In winter, horses usually eat more forage than in summer, and since hay or grass makes up the greatest proportion of their diet, it pays dividends to determine if their main source of forage has enough calories, protein and minerals to keep them healthy.

Some owners don’t have control over the type of hay given to their horses. If you have no choice but to feed hay lacking in protein and vitamin content, at least ensure it is free of weeds, excessive dust, and other unwanted substances. You can then ‘top up’ your horse’s diet by offering a ration balancer daily. Ration balancers are perfect for horses that have low-quality hay or pasture and need extra protein, macro minerals, micro-minerals, and vitamins without a lot of calories. Kelpies Balancer is a concentrated source of nutrients that can be added to the feed without worrying about weight gain, making it ideal for easy keepers or horses that are only in light work.

Weight Gain Woes

Some horses struggle to put on and maintain weight, and often there are factors that can contribute to this problem, such as age and health concerns.

Before deciding on a nutritional plan for your horse, it is always a good idea to talk to a veterinarian to ensure they are not suffering from an underlying condition like anemia, heaves or gastric ulcers. These conditions may inhibit your horse from eating normally and gaining weight.

Equally important, is to essure that your horse has been wormed correctly and has his teeth floated recently. Horses with poor dentition, or those that have only a few teeth left (the oldies) are unable to chew long-stem fiber or roughage properly, these horses can benefit from forage sources like hay cubes that are soaked in water.

For underweight horses on pasture that need to gain kilos, a specially designed conditioning feed like Muscle Up, that has been formulated with non-heating calories, vitamins and nutrients is a great choice. Concentrated feeds were designed to be fed in small rations to reduce the risk of colic.  When horses are overfed with concentrated feeds, the grain usually passes unprocessed to the large intestine where it may lead to digestive problems. By giving small formulated rations, the feed is broken down effectively by the horses stomach and the nutrients and vitamins are digested correctly.

Winter Watering Worries

Horses need constant access to fresh water during winter. It is even more important than food. Water is life. It is neccessary not only for hydration but also for keeping forage and grain moving safely through the digestive tract. If a horse doesn’t drink enough water, the risk of impaction colic can grow substantially.

Shared water troughs can present a bio-hazard risk during winter, especially if they are also used by wild animals. Occasionally, small animals like mice or lizards will fall in the trough and drown, and if they are not retrieved, they will contaminate the water and potentially make horses sick. Cleaning the troughs regularly is therefore important. While a small amount of algae is rarely a problem, if water becomes distasteful, horses might stop drinking altogether, putting them at risk of dehydration.

 Manually, breaking and removing ice is a tough job that needs to be done twice a day during freezing conditions. If you live in a very cold region, it is a good idea to invest in insulated pipes and water heaters to ensure water troughs do not ice over.

Water temperature is important too. Drinking almost freezing cold water reduces a horse’s core body temperature and research shows that horses increase water consumption by circa 40% when water temperatures are kept above freezing.

Winter Ready Your Yard

Feeding out during winter can be problematic, especially if your horses live out 24/7 and you have to bring them in and out in the dark.

Having the right tools and equipment ready for when it’s bleak and cold can make a huge difference.

Don’t wait for the frost to arrive before purchasing a new wheelbarrow, setting up lighting around the yard or making sure the feed room is rodent proof.

Having a shovel ready to break ice, safe gates that open easily in a hurry and a feed cart with wheels that’s easy to push around will make feeding more efficient, less dangerous for everyone involved.

Kelpies Galicia: Easy Feeding, All Year Long

Backed by over 40 years of research, all our feeds utilize Alltech innovative micronutrient solutions to improve performance and longevity at each stage of your horse’s life. We simplify feeding for you, since all our formulations are enriched with high-quality Alltech antioxidants and minerals, which support recovery in muscles, bones, and connective tissue.


Author Cristina

More posts by Cristina