Horses are a little bit like children, they need to be guided in the right direction with what they eat. If they are left to choose for themselves they will almost always go for what is the sweetest, or not eat something healthy because ‘they don’t like it’.
Perhaps more than any other time of the year, in winter when horses are stabled or in paddocks with very little grass – it is extra important to persist with a highly nutritious low sugar diet.
Winter feeding tip # 4 – Persistence pays off (for your horses health).
We’ve all had scenarios of getting excited about a new type of super healthy feed that is extremely low in sugar, it has rave reviews online and you finally get to try a small amount with your horse – but guess what – he won’t eat it. In the bin it goes and on to the next thing.
Cycling through products based on your horses tastes is akin to letting your child decide exactly what he/she would like to be brought up on nutritionally. Horses (especially those that are stabled), like children, are dependant on us making the right decisions for them, even though sometimes, given the choice, they won’t necessarily agree with these decisions. This is when you need to show a little authority and persist with the right course until things shape up the way that is best for their health.
To continue along the child analogy, like children, horses are sometimes also subject to unnatural amounts of sugar in their modern day diets. From birth they generally become accustomed to sugar thorough cane molasses in their feeds – and this leads to an underlying desire to eat more of it. Molasses in small amounts is fine, but it is an ingredient which can sometimes be a little ‘overused’ in feed manufacture. It has gained the title of the ‘feed millers best friend’ due to the following key attributes:
- Its ability to make anything it is added to palatable
- The price per tonne (molasses is very cost effective and adds weight)
- Molasses has a key characteristic of binding fines together, stopping them from settling in a bag or being lost during the manufacturing process, saving further cost and stopping feed from being ‘dusty’.
Molasses is not the problem here, it is the overuse of molasses – be clear about that. Nonetheless when you try a feed that contains none at all, such as any Keyflow product, you might find that your horse (child) says give me back the chocolate bar please, I don’t like this broccoli!
How to overcome this issue:
1. Mix with something familiar
First and foremost, when introducing any new feed, the only fair thing to do is mix it thoroughly with something more familiar to them. This might sound obvious but this is a frame of mind that you have to work in. You shouldn’t be placing the broccoli (low sugar feed) in front of them to see if they like it, you should be introducing it in a way to ensure that they learn to enjoy it. Mixing with something you know they eat and they are familiar with is the best way to do this and will help them develop a taste for the new feed.
2. Persist & Insist
Be patient and allow them time to get used to it. If you are introducing say something like Pink Mash you need to mix that in with their normal feed, at small amounts over the course of days or even weeks and then persist, even if this means your horse not cleaning up their feed for a couple of days. Most horses love it, and all horses learn to, but they sometimes don’t get the chance because their owner hasn’t persisted and insisted they eat it. At less than 2% sugar, you need to be motivated to get your horse on to something that is so good for their health – just like broccoli with a child.
3. Add and then gradually remove sugar
As a last measure – if your horse is going on hunger strike – and winning – you can wean them off their sweet tooth by adding sugar – we would recommend in the form of honey – and then gradually removing it. We have had significant success doing this for those particularly fussy types and the best thing is, once weaned off a higher sugar diet, they absolutely thrive and very much enjoy their new, healthy ration.
Remember, our horses that are in stables and out in grassless paddocks during winter are completely dependant on our care – and we need to do what is best by them and their health. Be positive, affirmative, persistent and insistent to get your horse on to a healthy diet and you will breeze through winter.