Winter time can mean a complete change of routine for many horse owners (and horses) and diets can change dramatically. Often horses that aren’t in work, or are in light work , spend all summer turned out, with a diet of grass, and then winter arrives and they are stabled for long periods and given ‘hard feed’ and hay or haylage. These major changes in diet and management routines can have a dramatic effect on the digestive system and can easily lead to complications such as colic and unwanted stereotypical behaviour.
Hay or haylage?
Horses have evolved to eat a mainly fibre diet, however a diet solely of grass is not always possible in winter and is often lacking in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, this is why the diet needs to be supplemented with hay or haylage. Grass also contains natural antioxidants which will be depleted in winter. Feeding a high quality feed balancer such as one from the Blue Chip range will ensure that your horse or pony is getting a nutritionally balanced diet, and because all the Blue Chip balancers are nutrient dense they are fed in small quantities. Blue Chip balancers are whole-cereal and molasses free and include a fruit derived form of vitamin E, which is a powerful natural antioxidant.
Horses can use up to 80% of their feed energy keeping warm; fibre is the most ‘warming’ feed, as more heat is produced during digestion of fibre than any other nutrient. All of the Blue Chip balancers contain a probiotic yeast which can double the digestibility of fibre in the diet, meaning that they will get twice as much ‘warming energy’ out of their hay or haylage.
Stabled horses need a well ventilated stable to help prevent dust allergies and spores irritating the airways. All the Blue Chip balancers contain a comprehensive respiratory supplement that includes garlic, menthol and eucalyptus, to promote lung health and integrity. Also included in the balancers are a hoof supplement and a purified form of Nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA and RNA and aid nutrient absorption, injury recovery and improve the horse’s immune system.
Dehydration can be a major factor in colic cases and this is especially true in winter when horses aren’t inclined to drink as much, particularly when water is colder than normal. The maintenance level of fluid requirements for an adult horse is 50ml/kg of bodyweight per day. Encouraging fluid intake can be done by offering slightly warmed water and if your horse or pony is still not keen to drink, try wetting the feed or using a high water content source of fibre such as unmolassed sugar beet.
Providing a high fibre diet that is complemented by a balancer from the Blue Chip range, along with careful management will mean that you can enjoy this winter safe in the knowledge that your horse is getting a nutritionally balanced diet and will be happy and healthy.