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Feeding your horse in the autumn can be a challenge. Some horses don’t transition well from fresh pasture to conserved forages whereas good doers are vulnerable to laminitis if there is a late flush of grass.
Weight loss and digestive upsets are typical signs that a horse hasn’t adjusted to the change of forage very well. If horses are struggling to chew long length forages, short chopped fibres, can be used instead. The shorter chop length should be easier to chew and will probably be more digestible depending on the fibres used. They can be fed on a weight for weight basis –simply feed the same weight of short chop as you would hay. If even this is too much for your horse then try a high fibre cube soaked and fed with soaked sugar beet to provide highly digestible fibre in an easy to chew form.
Winter weight loss can be a good thing!
It can be argued that for many horses and ponies, not losing weight in winter is actually more of a threat to their health than weight loss. If horses and ponies just keep putting on weight, the risk of laminitis is greatly increased. The winter presents the ideal opportunity to promote some weight loss. Don’t over-rug and don’t be tempted to over-feed – just because we want to eat crumpets dripping in butter in front of a fire doesn’t mean your horse food needs comfort food too! Fibre is the horse’s central heating system – heat is produced as fibre is fermented in the digestive system – so the best way to keep your good doer warm and toasty is to feed plenty of low calorie fibre.
Feed For Healthy Hooves
If your horse is prone to laminitis then selecting a low sugar and starch ration is essential. This means avoiding cereals and feeds with lots of molasses. Alongside this you may find it beneficial to use a feed that has been specially formulated for promoting healthy hooves. These feeds tend to contain the essential nutrients needed to produce healthy hoof horn which include :
- Biotin – a B vitamin which is essential for cell proliferation
- Calcium – involved in creating cross-links between the cells in the hoof to promote strength and reduce brittleness.
- Zinc – zinc helps to create healthy keratin which gives hooves strength.
Remember that if you do choose to use a feed that contains added nutrients, for your horse to get the full benefit of these nutrients, you need to feed the recommended feeding rate. If you feed less than suggested your horse won’t receive the correct amount and the product may not work!