During the change of season there are several considerations to think about when feeding your horse or pony. At this time of year you need to pay close attention to the growth and quality of your pasture or grazing. This is particularly important for young and old horses, especially where there has been more grass over late summer than in previous years. Some horses and ponies may be carrying more condition than usual and the colder season needs to be utilised as an opportunity to control condition and weight loss.
Older horses, or less good doers may start to lose condition as the nutrient value in grazing declines. Changes in the sugar content of grass are common, and the level of fructans can fluctuate as the colder nights set in. For ponies at risk of laminitis, you may still have to watch their grazing and droppings very carefully. The indigestible fibre content of grass will also be changing, so for some sensitive horses you may notice your horse having looser droppings than usual, or they may have smaller, harder, rounder droppings. In this case, cooler weather and less exercise may indicate your horse is not drinking enough. You need to act on this as decreased water consumption can lead to dehydration, especially if they are in limited grass and dry hay. If you are already feeding conserved forage, is it this year’s hay or haylage? Ideally new hay or haylage should be left for the sugars to stabilise for an absolute minimum of several weeks, traditionally hay wasn’t fed until the New Year. How long to leave it is dependent on its water content, which is influenced by grass species, stage of growth and the weather when it was cut, as well as how it was actually made. If you have found yourself with no choice other than to feed new hay already, give our advice line a call and we’ll be able to talk you through some checks to ensure it won’t affect your horse’s digestive health.
If you are moving your horse from being grass kept to being part stabled or stabled any changes need to be made gradually and it’s beneficial to include hindgut support in the form of live probiotics. Keyflow Pink Mash® is a useful product to feed during any period of change as well as for regular feeding. You can base your diet on Pink Mash®, or it can be used as an addition to your horse’s existing ration. Pink Mash® will also contribute towards your horses fibre intake. Try to ensure that even if a horse is undergoing weight control or weight loss management, they’re still receiving a minimum of 2% of their body weight in forage of fibre sources.
Anything less than this needs to be done under the strict supervision of your vet or nutritionist. As grass quality declines checking the overall nutritional intake for micronutrients is key – the nutritional analysis of grazing can vary massively at this time of year depending on the type of grass you have, the stage of its growth and the weather conditions. Ensuring a balanced diet by feeding a high quality balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement will be of benefit.
If you have a horse or pony that loses weight easily, higher feed intake or a higher energy feed may be needed. Others factors in your horses health and condition to consider at this time of year include ensuring your horse’s worming program is relevant for the life-cycle of different endoparasites. It’s also a good opportunity to check your horses dental health, particularly in old horses where inability to sufficiently chew fibre will have a massive impact on their condition through the winter months.
Keyflow are here to help. We are able to provide advice on forage choice and quality, provide advice on condition scoring and health checking the weight of your horse and we are also available to help with any problems that you may have whether it’s simply balancing the diet or helping to maintain condition as we head into autumn.