The cold weather of winter puts extra demands on the horse’s metabolism. More energy is required for day-to-day activities in the cold compared to the same activities performed in a milder climate.Therefore, in winter many horses and ponies need extra feed for maintenance, conditioning, and work. As well as expending energy to keep warm when it’s cold, horses use more energy working when it is wet and muddy because of the extra effort involved in pulling the feet out of the mud.
Although Australian winters are generally mild compared to those in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures can still drop considerably, and for many Australian regions the winter blues are just around the corner. With the cold weather upon us, horse owners start to think about how their horse’s daily nutritional requirements will change in the wintertime, and how they can be sure that their horse stays in tip-top condition right through until spring.
Winter Feeding Recommendations from Kentucky Equine Research
High-fat feeds can be a real advantage in the cold weather for preventing weight loss. Fat contains two to three times the energy of grain and is therefore a great way of increasing calories in the diet without feeding large amounts.
Fat sources include vegetable oils, sunflower seeds (25-30% fat), and rice pollard (15-20% fat). Equi-Jewel® is a high-fat, low-starch energy supplement that is one of the most effective and safest ways to achieve weight gain. Equi-Jewel is a stabilised rice bran product that contains 18% fat from rice oil and is an excellent supplement for winter to increase the energy density of the diet.
In summary, it is important to watch your horses’ body condition carefully and make dietary changes at the first sign of bad weather or weight loss. Remember, a horse doesn’t need to be in “show condition” all winter, but most horses will need extra care to come out of the winter in top shape.
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