Making sure your horse remains healthy as the weather begins to change is crucial for them to have a productive riding season come spring. They must maintain their health and weight status. Since the temperatures begin to drop, your horse is often likely to change how they approach eating and drinking, but don’t let that discourage you.
The best way to provide your horse with the proper forage is by supplying your horse with added hay. Hay gives horse’s the proper amount of nutrients they need to stay healthy during the change of seasons. Good quality hay consists of a high, leaf-to-stem ratio, a small-diameter stem, has few seeds or blooms, smells fresh, and free of allergens and contaminants. Look to see if your hay is brightly colored; faded hay indicates old or poorly-stored hay.
It is important to remember to introduce grain feeding gradually. Changes in diet must be made slowly, so it does not upset the horse’s dietary tract. Allow three days between each increase of grain to adapt. Ration Balances with higher protein, low carb tested are easy low volume feeds.
As the temperature drops and horses become less active, they begin to decrease their water consumption per day. To avoid dehydration, make sure the horses always have access to fresh water. Offer them warmer water to encourage drinking. When temperatures drop below freezing, install a water heater to prevent ice.
Horses naturally drink less water as the temperature decreases, but they must consume roughly the same amount as they consume year-round to keep consistent balance. With the consumption of less water and with more feed, the horse’s digestive tract can become upset and strongly impact colic. Be cautious of colic, as this can lead to serious health complications. Horses also will approach the water source less often if there is a lot of mud/standing water around the water source. Use stone dust to allow easy access, which increases water intake.
Monitor Body Condition
Make sure you closely monitor your horse’s sugar intake and check on their weight constantly. Longer, thicker hair coats can be deceiving of the horse’s actual weight condition. More food may be needed to maintain weight. A good way to estimate the fat presented on their bodies is through finding their Body Condition Score.
If your horse is underweight, you must begin to increase their forage consumption and amount of ration balances. Higher quality forage consisting of legumes like alfalfa is a healthy alternative for making sure they get enough nutrients. Alfalfa has less sugars than grass hay in studies at equianalytical, so small amounts of added alfalfa is safe. Make sure to check teeth and follow deworming schedules twice a year, in spring and fall with equimax (AAEP guidelines) to ensure a healthy weight.
As the horses begin to spend less time on the pasture the switch to a diet consisting largely of hay alters the nutrients a horse consumes. Grass is often more nutrient-dense than hay and other forages so adjust as needed and implement supplements.
Watch for wilting maple leaves, weeds, and dangerous plants as this can be very problematic. Keep a close eye on what your horse is eating if their diet consists of more than the grain and hay you supply for them.
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