Instore Pickup & Local Delivery


Your Cart is Empty

  • Add description, images, menus and links to your mega menu

  • A column with no settings can be used as a spacer

  • Link to your collections, sales and even external links

  • Add up to five columns

  • April 23, 2023 4 min read

    Feeding Your Horse in Winter 

    Winter can be a challenging season for horse owners when it comes to feeding their beloved equines, especially if the horse is older or loses condition easily. With the harsh weather conditions and limited access to fresh forage, it's crucial to ensure that horses are getting the necessary nutrients to maintain their health and well-being. In this article, we will discuss some of the key considerations for feeding horses in winter.

    • Prepare for Winter in Summer 

    Ok this may sound slightly odd, but preparing your horse before the winter season kicks in, will help to maintain its weight and body condition. If you know your horse generally loses weight over winter, then it's important to keep their weight at an optimum level, or even slightly more so, during the summer months. This means that when they do lose the weight over winter, they will still hold some condition, and you won't have a skinny horse. 

    In Australia, most horses have access to good winter pasture. But, if you know your paddocks don't hold up so well over winter then it is important to start making preparations sooner. This may include moving to a different agistment that has feed on the ground, or it may mean storing good quality hay in preparation for feeding in winter. If you are able to store hay, then it may be worthwhile buying in bulk over the summer and autumn months, as you will not only ensure feed for your horse, but it could save you some money as well! 

    • Hay Quantity and Quality 

    Hay is a primary source of forage for horses in the winter, and its quality and quantity are essential for their health. The ideal hay for horses should be green, leafy, and free from mould and dust. Horses require around 1.5-2% of their body weight in forage each day, and this requirement increases during the winter months as they use more energy to keep warm. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that horses have access to plenty of hay throughout the day.

    It's also worth noting that hay quality can vary depending on the type of grass or legume, the cutting time, and the storage conditions. As a rule of thumb, hay that has been cut early in the season and stored properly will have a higher nutrient content than hay that has been cut late in the season or exposed to moisture.

    • Feeding Concentrates 

    Concentrate feed, such as grains and pellets, can be an excellent supplement to hay during the winter months. However, it's crucial to feed them in moderation and choose the right type of feed for each horse's individual needs. For example, horses that are in heavy work or are underweight may benefit from a high-energy feed, while overweight horses may need a low-energy option.

    It's also important to introduce concentrate feeds gradually and monitor each horse's response. Overfeeding or sudden changes in the diet can lead to digestive issues such as colic or laminitis.

    • Monitor Water Intake 

    Horses require plenty of water throughout the year, but it's especially crucial during the winter months when they may be consuming more dry hay and concentrate feeds. Water intake can be reduced during the winter if the water is too cold, so it's essential to provide access to fresh, clean, and slightly warmed water.

    Adding free access to a salt block can also encourage horses to drink more and replenish the essential minerals they lose through sweat and urine. If your horse is very reluctant to drink over the winter months, try enticing them by adding molasses or apple juice to their water! 

    • Keep an Eye on their Body Condition 

    Body condition scoring is a useful tool for assessing a horse's overall health and nutritional status. Horses should have a moderate body condition score of 5-6 out of 9, which means they have a visible waist and ribs but are not excessively thin or overweight.

    It's crucial to monitor a horse's body condition score regularly and adjust their feeding program accordingly. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, while underfeeding can result in weight loss, poor coat condition, and even colic.

    If you see your horse every day, it might be worthwhile taking a photo of your horse regularly, for example once or twice a month. In this way, you can see if there are any significant changes to their body condition. 

    • Shelter and Exercise 

    Shelter and exercise are essential for maintaining a horse's health and well-being during the winter months. Horses should have access to a dry and windproof shelter, such as a stable or paddock shelters, where they can escape the harsh weather conditions.

    Exercise is also crucial for keeping horses healthy and preventing boredom and behavioral issues. However, it's essential to monitor a horse's energy levels and adjust their feeding program accordingly. Horses that are in heavy work or living in cold environments may require more calories than horses that are resting or living in milder conditions.

    • Balance the Diet 

    Feeding a balanced diet is crucial all year round to ensure your horse receives the appropriate levels of energy, protein and vitamins and minerals. It is especially important during winter as any nutrient deficiencies can lead to weight loss, suppressed immune systems and changes to coat and hooves. 

    • Add Oil to the Diet 

    If your horse is prone to losing weight, or if their coat is looking dry and dull, adding some oil to their diet will help. It is best to choose oil high in Omega 3s, such as linseed. However, you can also choose Rice Bran Oil and Canola Oil as well. 

    Feeding horses in winter can be challenging, but with the right considerations, it can be done successfully. With the right preparation and ensuring that you have developed the right feeding program for your horse, then you will be starting winter out on the right foot! 

    At Oakford Stockfeeds, we are here to help! If you are searching for particular feeds that will help your horse gain (or lose!) weight over winter, please visit us in store, online or via phone, we are more than happy to help! 

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.