Temperatures are plummeting as winter creeps in! Instead of singing the winter blues, get your barn prepared with these four feeding tips. Now’s the time to adjust for cold weather and fight those nasty temperatures.
Ideally, your horse has bulked up already and has a nice layer of fat. When you run your fingers through his fur you should slightly feel his ribs, but nothing more. If he’s on the skinnier side you have your work cut out, but it’s not impossible to keep him warm and healthy with some extra care.
As simple as it sounds, hay is extremely important during these cold times. The digestion of fiber will keep his system producing heat. Hay should be available throughout the day. For those outside, round bales provide a generous supply of hay without the added work of tossing square bales. Stocking up early in the season to get the best prices is the way to go.
If hay is a bit limited, another fiber source is soaked alfalfa cubes. This alternative is great for senior horses and keeping the weight on. Cubes allow you to monitor the amount of food your horse is eating and they encourage less waste. Alfalfa pellets are also available, but are better left as a filler rather than a hay replacement.
Instead of increasing grain to an unhealthy level, you’re better off changing to a feed with a higher fat content. Some food blends contain as much as 10% fat, rather than the standard 2.5% to 4.5%. This increase will help provide the needed boost of energy during the colder months.
Salt intake is an important element in your horse’s diet that is often overlooked in the winter. Free-access to a salt block will encourage frequent usage and help meet their sodium and chloride needs. They are more likely to visit their water bucket, as well.
These winter feeding tips are bound to save you the headache and heartache of skinny, shivering horses. If you’ve got more tips share them below!
(Originally published in December 2016).