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Bringing in for Winter

Kate Hore RNutr(Animal). Snr Nutritionist at NAF

Winter is on its way, and for many horses after enjoying a warm, dry summer at grass that will now mean a change of regime to daily stabling. So how do we, as horse owners, manage that change and ensure we maintain health and vitality right through the cold, dark months ahead?

Follow that golden rule of feeding which advises us to make all changes gradually. This will help to ensure that the vast and complex microbiome (bacteria, yeast, funghi and protozoa) of the gut – so important to our horse’s health – remains stable. If possible, gradually increase the time they spend stabled, while decreasing turnout. This helps horses adjust both physically and mentally to spending longer stabled. Look for ways to enrich the stable environment to mimic – as far as possible – the natural grazing behaviour. Try putting their forage, feed, water and salt lick all in different places, to encourage the natural ambling while eating which helps maximise digestion.

A winter diet based primarily on forage and fibre feeds is the best choice for your horse. This natural diet doesn’t have the detrimental problems associated with feeding starchy cereals, and will help keep your horse occupied, keep them feeling content and give sufficient energy for work and condition.