Feeding your horse correctly during winter is very important, especially whilst trying to maintain body condition.
A horse’s nutritional requirements tend to change when temperatures get colder during winter. Ideally one would want your horse to have a thick coat of hair and plenty of fat cover to cope with decreasing temperatures.
As temperatures drop, horses need additional energy, obtained from their diet. For every degree below zero degrees, a horse will need up to 1% extra energy, to be sourced from its diet. But what is the best feed to give your animal during the cold months of winter?
Many people are inclined to feed their horses more concentrates during winter, due to them being denser with energy. These will also help keep your horse warm, though there isn’t as much heat produced as a by-product of digestion as this is from the microbial fermentation of forages.
Usually, if you increase the amount of forage, hay or fodder crops, given to your horse, it will help meet their new energy requirements. The horse will also be warmer, due to the increase in microbial fermentation. For a horse weighing 450kgs, they should be given just over 7kgs of fodder. The amount given should be customised depending on weight, usually around one kg of fodder per 65kgs.
Should temperatures drop further, then an extra portion of feed should be given. Horses housed outside should also receive more, due to them needing more protection against the cold, via digestion.
Horses should also have access to clean, non-icy water at all times. They will require a lot more water, when being fed a lot more hay and dry feeds. If water temperatures are too cold, your horse will probably not drink much. Therefore it is advised to ensure the water is slightly warmed. This helps prevent the risk of dehydration and colic.