Looking after your horse's health in winter
Updated: Apr 14
As the winter nights creep in, and the weather turns colder, it’s important to think about the changes in conditions and how they can affect your horse’s health.
At this time of year you may be stabling during the night and even parts of the day – which means less room for your horse to move around as well as reduced or no ad-lib grazing.
Feed extra forage
With the reduced ability to graze, either from being stabled or because of the lack of grass available, you’ll need to consider the amount of forage available to your horse and how much extra you need to provide.
For those stabled at night, or with poor grazing options you will need to provide the following amounts for each 100kg of bodyweight for your horse.
Hay = 2.5kg
Haylage = 5kg
So for a 500kg horse, you’ll be providing 12.5kg of hay and 25kg of haylage per day.
Support your horse with extra conditioning
If your horse starts dropping condition as the weather gets colder you’ll need to tailor its diet accordingly to give the best support. The best way to do this is with unlimited ad-lib forage - this is the most natural way to encourage your horse to gain condition. Using a horse feed balancer like Equilibra 500 will also support optimum digestive health so you can be sure your horse is getting the most out of their hay or haylage.
Other options include beet based fibre products, like Fibregest, Speedibeet or Sugarbeet. Fibregest is a non-heating beet product that comes in two options, Original and No Starch. Both are non-soak so perfect for those with limited (or frozen!) water supplies.
Choosing a super soluble fibre feed over traditional conditioning feed or fat/oil based feeds will allow your horse's digestive system to function with less stress. Traditional conditioning feeds are usually high in starch, which can cause behavioural issues, and high fat/oil feeds can affect the uptake of fibre in the horse's digestive system.
Joint support for your horse
Extra time in the stable can have an effect on flexibility of movement as the joints are not moving enough to help keep them supple, particularly for older or injured horses. This is where a comprehensive joint supplement with glucosamine can help. Joint Aid Plus for Horses not only supplies glucosamine and chondroitin to look after the joint capsule, but also supports the ligaments and tendons whilst also complementing the body's own anti-inflammatory actions.
Muscle loss in horses
Young or old, a horse in the field spends a lot of time walking around. Even that small amount of movement can help maintain the horse’s muscles. The more time spent in the stable, the less time the horse can spend stretching its legs and using the muscles. This restricted movement can take its affect not only on the strength of the muscle but also the body’s ability to flush out waste products such as lactic acid and free radicals.
In this situation a muscle supplement that can provide essential amino acids for muscle replenishment, antioxidants for mopping up waste products and Omega 3 fatty acids for moderation muscle breakdown will provide all round support to your horse’s muscles. Muscle Maintenance for Horses will provide all of these benefits with a tailored feeding guideline for optimum results.
Consider supplementing Vitamin D
Like us, horses absorb most of their vitamin D requirements from the sunlight. In the winter when the daylight hours are shorter, and the sun’s intensity is lower it is unlikely that enough vitamin D is being provided by this natural route. Add in the possibility of horses being turned out with rugs on and the vitamin D available from sunlight is pretty much nil.
It's usually something overlooked every year, and for those feeding the full recommendations of their horse feed balancer or compound feed it’s not something most will need to worry about.
However, if your horse is a good doer who doesn’t get a full ration of feed each day or has any hard feed, there is a high change your horse will not be receiving enough vitamin D in their daily diet. A product like our OneCup vitamin and mineral supplement is a very easy way to address this with a very small feeding rate. Just 100gms will ensure the horse’s essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements are provided, each and every day. For good doers it can be fed mixed in with a handful of chaff, or even by hand, removing the need to use feed buckets.
Give your horse’s immunity a boost
We’re all more likely to suffer with bugs during the winter – and there’s plenty of research to suggest that colder weather can suppress the immune system at this time of year. To give your horse’s immunity a helping hand try a supplement like Immune Aid for Horses, designed to help maintain the horse’s natural immune response to the presence of environmental as well as feed derived antagonists.