Should You Change Your Horse's Diet for Winter?
With the winter season right around the corner, now is the time for horse owners to think about how best to care for their equine companions. When the weather turns chilly and the nights get longer, many horse owners wonder if the diet they fed during the rest of the year is still sufficient, or if they should change their horse's diet in response to the changing weather conditions.
There are valid arguments on both sides of the question, and there is no one right answer for every horse. Diet is very much an individual thing for horse owners, and there are a number of factors to consider. These factors include the amount of exercise the horse will receive over the winter months, how - and how often - the owner expects to ride and the current fitness level of the horse.
One factor horse owners should keep in mind is that horses need additional energy during the cold weather months. Even if your horse is not active with riding in the winter, he will need extra energy just to stay warm. Your horse needs a 1% increase in energy for every 1°C drop in temperature when the thermometer drops below 0°C. Providing extra calories during the coldest months of the year is the best way to prevent the weight loss that horse owners often see during the winter months.
Another factor in favor of adding extra calories in the winter is the fact that those lush summer pastures will have since been depleted. Horses are grazers, and they need good forage to maintain their weight and stay in top condition. Feeding good quality hay is a start, but providing extra grain is also important for winter horse care.
Even if you have good hay in your barn, you might want to add additional fiber to your horse's diet during the winter months. Products like corn and rice bran can replace oats during the colder months, providing extra energy and sufficient calories to make it through the winter season. Feeding corn and rice bran in a quantity equal to 1.5% of body weight per day is a great way to keep your horse fat and happy no matter how cold the weather gets.
Water consumption is another important consideration for horse owners. When the weather gets colder, your horse will not sweat as much, and that means he will instinctively drink less water. That reduced water consumption can lead to dehydration and put your horse at a greater risk of colic. A horse weighing 500 kg needs a minimum of 25-35 liters of water each day to stay healthy, maintain proper digestion and break down dietary fiber. Adding salt to his daily diet or making sure a salt lick is always available is one way to encourage your horse to drink more water and stay properly hydrated during the winter months.
If you want to help your horse keep up his energy during the winter and provide a wonderful treat, you could include Winnie's Cookies in your equine companion's diet. These delicious cookies are designed to be highly palatable, easily digestible and very nutritious. The winter season can be hard on your horse, and providing extra calories - and an occasional treat, is the perfect way to make sure your riding companion is ready to go when spring finally arrives.
Providing proper nutrition is an essential part of horse ownership, and meeting the nutritional needs of your equine companion is even more important in the winter months. With the pasture depleted, you need to make up the difference with a quality diet rich in protein and trace minerals. That staple diet, along with quality hay, water and treats, will help your horse make it through the winter in top shape.