Feeding Your Horse In The Winter

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As temps dip down and the weather stays cold, a horse’s nutritional requirements change. It’s best to have a horse be a tad over weight (maybe a 6-7 BCS) entering the winter and with a thick hair coat and fat cover.

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It has been estimated that a horse with a healthy winter coat, that can keep dry, will be comfortable at temperatures down to 18° F; and if the horse has access to a shelter it can tolerate temperatures as low as -40° F.

If you are lucky enough to be able to ride throughout the winter and clip your horse then understanding proper blanketing is a must!!

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As winter’s temperatures drop a good rule of thumb to remember is  for every degree below 18°F the horse requires an additional 1% energy in their diet.   This might prompt you to ask, “what is the best source of additional dietary energy during the cold winter months?”

Good question! But first we must understand how horses utilize the dietary energy in the winter to keep warm.  They do it in a couple of different ways. First, there is the heat given off as a by-product of normal metabolic processes. Secondly, there is the heat generated from microbial fermentation of forages that occurs in the hindgut during digestion.

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Some horse owners believe that feeding more concentrates (because they are energy dense), will help keep the horse warmer. But this isn’t how the horse was designed. We must remember that horses are designed to eat fiber/forage.  Another reason to not focus on grain for heat is that there isn’t as much heat produced as a byproduct of digestion, absorption and utilization of grains as there is from the microbial fermentation of forages.

So, you should think about increasing the amount of forage in the diet NOT GRAIN to help meet the increasing energy needs resulting from winter weather.  This will result in an increase in microbial fermentation which will help keep the horse warm.

 

Here’s an example, if a 1000 lb horse needed 16 lbs of good-quality hay each day when the temperature was 18° F, its requirement could be expected to increase by approximately 2 – 2.5 lbs to 18 -18.5 lbs if the temperature dropped to 0° F.  Note: The increased dietary energy requirement would be even greater if the horse didn’t have access to shelter.

An additional very important point to consider is the need to provide access to clean, “warm” water.  There was a study that determined that the most pleasing temperature of water for a horse is 45-65 degrees. So bucket warmers, and insulated troughs are great ideas to use in the winter. If the water is ice cold, the horse will not drink as much.

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There are a few reasons beyond the obvious why good water intake is so important. A horse will require a lot more water when eating dried feedstuffs like hay, compared to horses grazing on lush pasture as pasture grass has water in it.  In addition, horses usually move less in the winter due to lack of exercise and confinement. Movement aides in digestion and keeps things moving through the gut.  Water also helps this process. The goal should always be to maximize water consumption to help prevent the possibility of dehydration and colic.

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Winter adds an extra layer of concern for your horse’s health and nutrition needs. Simple rules such as increased forage and water intake will go a long way to help insure you both survive the coldest months!

Peace and good feed,

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The Equine Nutrition Nerd

 

Horse Feeding Myths & Misconceptions

Occasionally I will post an article from one of my friends in the equine nutrition field. One of the best of the best is Dr. Marty Adams.  I learn something every time I am with Marty.  Here is a great article he wrote about some of the common Myths & Misconceptions in feeding your horse.  Hope you learn something too 🙂

By: Dr. Marty Adams (PhD Equine Nutrition)

“Compared to most classes of livestock, there seems to be more myths and misconceptions when it comes to feeding horses. Many of these feeding myths appear to be long-held traditions that have been passed down from horse owner to horse owner. These myths or misconceptions are likely due to the fear of harming the horse, a lack of understanding of the feedstuff or the feeding practice, or thinking that the horse’s digestive system or nutrient requirements are similar to that of the human horseman. The old adage that “It’s always been done this way!” can be a powerful argument in keeping a tradition alive, in spite of scientific fact. We now have some scientific evidence that some of these “horse tales” are not true and may be harmful to the horse, so let’s review some of the most common horse feeding myths and misconceptions. Continue reading

Feeding Chia Seeds to Horses

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I sort of forgot one of my favorite topics in the “C”s so I am going back just to add this post about Chia seeds. Then on ward to the “E”s !! Most horse owners understand that fresh grass is … Continue reading

Five Tips For Feeding Your Horse During Hot Weather

Five Tips for Feeding Your Horse in Hot Weather Cover

Howdy Nerds!

Not sure about your neck of the woods but it’s HOT as H-E double hockey sticks here!  Not only is it hot for regular riding (where we can schedule that before or after the heat of the day), but this weather also coincides with showing and competition.  You can’t always get the early classes or start times so you end up riding in the heat.

There are plenty of articles about what and how to feed during the cold months but not too much on this topic when we are sweating. So I started to write an original article about it then remembered my good friend Dr. Marty Adams (smartest nutrition nerd I know) had already written one!

With his permission and a shout out to the company he works for, Southern States, I am re-printing his very informative piece.

By Dr. Martin Adams, PAS

The horse has a thermal neutral zone of 68° F, which means that above or below this temperature he has to expend additional energy to warm or cool his body. The major means that the horse uses to cool his body is accomplished by sweating. During hot weather and muscular activity, the horse’s body temperature increases and he must increase his sweating rate and respiratory rate to decrease the heat load.

ronpurdyeatsThese activities cost energy which could be used for performance or training energy needs. Following are some feeding tips that can help to decrease the horse’s heat load and increase the stamina and health of the show and performance horse during hot weather.

1) Supplement electrolytes to hard-working horses: When horses sweat, the minerals they lose in the greatest amounts are sodium and chloride (commonly known as salt) and potassium. These minerals are known as electrolytes.  Depletion of electrolytes interferes with muscle contraction and the result can be fatigue or poor performance, and severe loss of potassium results in symptoms similar to tying up disease. Electrolytes are provided in the diet to replace minerals lost in sweat and to increase water consumption to offset water loss from sweating. Horses in hard work that receive normal hay and grain diets are likely to require additional electrolytes due to the low levels of sodium and chloride (salt) present in hay. Active horses receiving five to ten pounds of grain and fifteen to twenty pounds of hay daily will require one to two additional ounces of salt. This can be provided by adding two ounces of salt to the daily feeding program or four ounces of a salt-based electrolyte.

IMG_0708-1024x7682) Don’t feed too much protein: When protein is fed in excess of daily requirements, the horse must break down the protein for energy production that it can’t use as amino acids to repair and replace muscle and body tissue. This process is called deamination and it generates more metabolic heat compared to regular digestion and absorption of dietary protein. This extra heat increases the horse’s total heat load and it must burn even more calories to increase breathing and sweating rates, and drink more water to rid its body of this extra heat and nitrogen. A horse in intense work only needs slightly over 10% protein in the total diet and that is easily met with good quality hay and fortified commercial horse feed. Good quality alfalfa hay will contain 17% to over 20% crude protein, so limit the amount of alfalfa hay fed to a maximum of ten pounds daily, or use a good quality grass hay that tests 8 to 10% crude protein for total hay needs, or provide a mixed hay such as timothy/alfalfa or orchard grass/alfalfa that has an intermediate protein level. Select crude protein values of hay and grain to provide a dietary crude protein level in the total diet of between 10% and 12% to avoid excessive dietary protein.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_HomeMade_SlowFeeder3) Provide fresh clean water at the proper temperature: Research has shown that horses will drink more water when it is maintained at a temperature between 45° and 65° F, so water in an insulated and/or shaded container should insure adequate intake during hot weather. Keeping water available all the time, changing the water out every day, and maintaining a regular cleaning schedule will keep water fresh and clean and keep the horse drinking. One of the most common causes of fatigue in the performance horse is overheating. Keeping the horse well hydrated will insure an adequate amount of water in the horse’s body to maintain normal sweating rates to maintain normal body temperature and prevent fatigue.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet.com.Watertank4) Switch to a high-fat feed or add a high-fat supplement. Fat is digested, absorbed and metabolized more efficiently than any other nutrient, producing less metabolic heat. This has provided the description of feeding more fat to horses as providing “cool calories”. This is important during hot weather because reducing the heat load of the horse will reduce the energy needed to lower the body temperature, which may reduce calorie and water needs.

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5) Don’t let your horse get too fat; maintain a proper body condition score. Fat acts as insulation to reduce heat loss. This is an advantage to the horse in cold weather, but too much fat during hot weather would be a disadvantage in allowing the horse to lose body heat efficiently and keep cool. A proper body condition score (BCS) for a performance or show horse is 4.5 to 5.5 on a scale of 1.0 to 9.0. Horses that are participating in timed events such as racing events should be maintained at a BCS of 4.5, horses in endurance, 3-day-eventing and jumping events at a BCS of 5.0, and BCS of show horses should be maintained at 5.0 to 5.5.

Happy Horse Healthy Planet _BCS8Remember! If you decide to make some changes to your horses diet do it gradually. Especially during hot weather, drastic changes in the type or amount of grain or hay could upset your horse’s digestive system. Introducing new feedstuffs in small amounts allows the intestinal microbes to adapt without causing adverse effects. When introducing a new grain concentrate or hay, replace 25% of each meal with the new feedstuff for three days, then replace 50% for three days, then 75% for three days, so that in ten days you have switched over to the new feedstuff without causing a digestive upset.

Hope this gave you some useful information. Thanks to Dr. Marty for sharing.  For more great articles by Dr. Adams, check out this link Equine Nutrition by Dr. Adams

Stay tuned for a new article in our ABCs of Equine Nutrition!  I might just get out of the Ds and onto the Es real soon!

~Peace and Good Feed,

The Nerd

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Welcome to the Nerd Herd Hero!

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I recently received an email from a client that is dealing with arthritis in the neck of his 6 year old TB.  He was asking if there was any nutritional support that might help his horse.  This is how I answered:

“With most arthritis cases, nutritionally you have to make sure they’re getting certain nutrients to aid the body with inflammation and bone health.

I always start with my hay and make sure it is tested and has a higher protein level so that I know my horse is getting proper amino acids.

If the horse requires supplementation with grain for energy try to use one that has the three essential  amino acids guaranteed in the guaranteed analysis.

These include lysine, methionine and threonine.
Most feed companies only guarantee lysine.

Other nutrients that are super important for bone health are phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur and the trace minerals zinc, copper and manganese.

Vitamins A, C and B are all really important for anti-inflammatory and connective tissue health.

After you are sure his diet is adequate you can look at joint supplements.  I usually tell my clients to use one that has all of the joint support ingredients (rather than just one) as you never know which one your horse will respond to.

So look for one that has HA,MSM, Chondroitin, and Glucosamine.

Herbal supplementation would include devils claw for reducing pain, Bromaline for anti-inflammatory and yucca for anti-inflammatory.

I really like Uckle’s Arthrigen because it has everything in it.”

Hope this helps!

The Nerd

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