A British winter can present a wide variety of weather conditions; from gales & driving rain to hard frosts & snow. These harsh winter conditions place extra nutritional demands on your horse at a time when accessibility to good quality grazing is reduced, so nutritional support is essential to help maintain the health & condition of your horse through the colder months so that they enter the spring in their best condition. Brinicombe Equine’s nutritionist, Aimee Redfearn, discusses the importance of fibre through the colder months & the benefits that probiotics can provide to your horse’s winter feeding plan. Here are some top tips to help your horse get the most out of his feed:
Fundamental fibre & the power of probiotics
Probiotics help to increase the digestibility of fibre by increasing the population of beneficial microbes in the horse’s hindgut. This means the need for additional concentrates is reduced as your horse can utilize more of the nutrients provided by fibre, which is healthier for the horse and the owner’s pocket. Include a probiotic supplement in your horse’s diet and help him to make the most of his feed. Our concentrated feed balancer, Think Pink, contains a protected probiotic enabling more of the live yeast cells that are ingested by the horse to reach the hindgut making it much more effective at supporting the health of the digestive system than other strains of yeast.
Forage plays a staple part in the natural diet of every type of horse and pony & should make up no less than 50% of your horse’s total diet. As the temperature drops below 6°C the quality & quantity of grazing reduces as grass stops growing, so making sure your horse consumes enough fibre is vital for a healthy, happy horse. Studies have shown that insufficient dietary fibre can lead to several digestive issues & behavioural vices so to avoid the onset of these problems ensure that your horse is consuming at least 1.5% of their bodyweight each day & that the health of the digestive system is supported by feeding our Think Pink.
Quality & suitable type of conserved forage
Always check the quality of your forage and look out for signs of spoilage and damage to packaging. If your hay is in short supply there are plenty of alternatives available on the market, try using haylage or short-chop hay replacers (chaffs), alfalfa feeds and sugarbeet that are also high in fibre so are a good way of making sure your horse gets enough fibre per day particularly for older horses who find it difficult to chew.
Keeping them warm
Fibre is digested in the horse’s hind gut through a process known as fermentation performed by microbes which reside within the caecum & colon. Fermentation provides the horse with volatile fatty acids, an essential energy source for the horse & heat which help to keep them warm through the winter months, allowing them to conserve precious energy reserves.
“What is often forgotten is that many feeds don’t contain a full balance of vitamins & minerals to meet the daily requirements of the horse, so these need to be provided in the form of a supplement.”
Balancing vital nutrients
The nutritional value of forage can vary massively according to several environmental factors, research has shown that modern pasture and forage has much less variation in the species of plants available compared to ancestral pastures & is therefore deficient in a range of minerals. What is often forgotten is that many feeds don’t contain a full balance of vitamins & minerals to meet the daily requirements of the horse. Adding a concentrated feed balancer such as our Think Pink is easily mixed in to feed and ensures a balance of vitamins & minerals are provided in the diet each day. This will help to balance the shortfall in nutrients provided by forage at this time of the year & by feeding less than the recommended amount of a complete feed. If your horse is not fed a hard feed, choose our low sugar lick HerbiLIX Original so that they can help themselves to extra nutrients.
How Brinicombe Equine can help
As horse owners themselves the team at Brinicombe Equine are no strangers to the problems faced when managing horses through the winter period. All of our products are backed up by our EquiClinic which helps to make the challenge of feeding your horse a lot easier as we understand that every horse is different and a balanced diet it vital to maintain optimum health. Choosing the right combination of feeds and supplements can be a minefield, so our EquiClinic is an easy access to professional advice.
If you would like advice on a winter feeding program tailored to your horse please do not hesitate to contact us on 08700 606206 or email us at email@example.com