(FARM ANIMAL CARE/HORSES) Sharing your life with a horse can be a very fulfilling experience, but winter can be a rough time for horses and their handlers.

Feeding can be challenging and the snow and cold can cause some horses to lose condition. To ensure your horse lives a long, happy life, it’s important to keep yourself updated on horse care information and basic guidelines.

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) has provided the following tips for making life easier for you and your horse during the frigid winter months. — Global Animal

horse with snowman
Ensure your horse stays healthy all season long with SPANA’s winter feeding tips. Photo credit: SPANA

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA)

Make sure that you’re ready for the cold snap by following SPANA’s feeding tips for horses who are stabled or living out over the winter:

Nutritional Needs

  • If your horse is living out, and the weather is particularly chilly and the grazing poor, you may need to provide additional fibre to aid digestion and keep them warm from within, as digestion of hay creates much needed heat. A large bale in a rack is a great option. But remember that just because we feel cold, it doesn’t mean our horses do, too! So don’t over-rug your horse, especially if he/she always lives outside and is not clipped.
  • If you need to increase the calorie content of your feed for horses who are losing weight, corn oil can be really useful. Put 120ml to 240ml in each hard feed meal, but introduce it gradually to avoid causing diarrhea.

Horse Feed

  • Provide your horse the micronutrients he/she needs with a suitable feed–or if you only feed roughage, try adding a supplement or balancer.
  • If your horse is living out and usually has traditional hard feed or cereals, you can continue feeding it to him/her, but avoid bringing either into the diet suddenly as it can disrupt the normal gut balance and cause colic.

Water is Vital

  • Make sure that horses have constant unrestricted access to fresh drinking water. If your horse is living out, ensure water troughs haven’t frozen. Remember, the ideal temperature for a horse’s drinking water is 7.5 °C to 18 °C.
Photo credit: Stock photo
If grazing conditions are poor, you may need to add fiber to your horse’s diet to aid digestion.  Photo credit: Stock photo

Be Aware of Parasites

  • Make sure your horse is dewormed before winter sets in so to make sure they’re getting full nutritional benefits from the food you provide.

Provide Suitable Grazing

  • Try to recreate natural grazing by providing enough hay/haylage for your horse to graze for around 15 to 17 hours a day. Horses can be greedy and may finish this within a few hours of feeding, so use haynets with small holes to make your horse work a little harder for their food.

Provide a Supplementary Salt Block

  • With restricted grazing, your horse may enjoy a salt block in his stable to provide the required sodium intake. Other edible toys can also be used (apple treats and others, available in most tack shops). These are good to reduce boredom, but beware of the sugar content in some of them.

Be Aware of Individual Needs

  • If your horse is stabled and activity levels are low, ensure their diet is adequate. Feed (including roughage) can always be increased again once the activity levels increase. A handy trick for very greedy ponies/horses is to mix some nice straw in their haynet. This has little to no calories but provides bulk and sense of fullness when in the stomach. A good ratio is a third of straw well-mixed into two thirds hay/haylage.

More SPANA: https://spana.org/