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

DENGIE, aka Chopped Hay

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What is it and How is it Made?

Dengie is just another name for chopped hay. The name Dengie is actually a brand of chopped hay, one of the original manufacturers. The company Dengie pioneered the use of high temperature drying to conserve forage for horses in the United Kingdom. When the Dengie company was founded, it was the only producer of high temperature dried alfalfa.  As research on equine nutrition confirmed  the benefits of a high fiber diet for horses, a bunch of other feed manufacturers followed suit.

Dengie2Because of its origination some people refer to all chopped hay as “Dengie”. Kind of like how there are tons of search engines but everyone says “Just Google it” as if Google is the name for searching the web. I will discuss Dengie under the letter “D” even though it probably belongs in “C” for chopped hay or even “H” (hay) for that matter.

Continue reading

What is Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) in Horse Hay?

Having your hay analyzed is a great idea.  It is the only way to determine the actual nutrient content of your hay.  It is important to know this so that you can be sure your horse is consuming an adequate diet.  You may or may not need to feed grain depending on the quality of your hay.  The better the quality of the hay you feed, the less grain you will need to feed.  This can be a significant savings.

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When discussing hay quality or looking at your hay sample analysis results the acronym ADF is often heard or seen.  ADF stands for Acid Detergent Fiber and is the percentage of the plant material in the forage that is difficult for your horse to digest. This indigestible part contains cellulose, lignin, and silica.

Continue reading

Good Articles About Nutrition from EcoEquine

I have decided to re-post on my site the nutrition-related posts from Laura’s blog EcoEquine.  She has decided to blog about Farm Sustainability and General Horse Health while I blog about equine nutrition (which only makes sense).  Just click the picture below to go to that article.

Peace & Good Feed,

~The Nerd

Happy Horse Healthy Planet.Ways of Hay

Happy Horse Healthy Planet.Hay Tips

Happy Horse Healthy Planet.Slow_Feeders_Blog

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