Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Feeding Fizzy, Excitable Horses Throughout The Firework Frenzy!

Bonfire night is looming, and for those of you with especially nervous or excitable horses, the idea of a ride following a festival of fireworks overnight, may not be a welcome one. Below are a few tips to help you try to avoid any undesirable performances from your horse or pony.

How can feed affect excitable horses?
Whilst many factors can have an effect, nutritionally a high fibre, controlled starch diet is the best way to feed excitable horses as it is the high starch content in some feeds that we most commonly associate with fizzy behaviour. Although many horse owners also try to avoid high levels of sugar in their horses feeds, in fact the largest contributor of sugar in our horses and ponies diets is their forage (grass/hay/haylage) – think of the ‘spring grass effect’!

So, what can I feed my fizzy four legged friend?
In practise, when offering hard feed, we would recommend avoiding all mixes, due to their cereal content (cereals are high in starch) and choosing fibre and oil based feeds containing a maximum of 15-20% starch. It is useful to remember, the definition for a ‘non heating feed’ is one that is ‘less likely to produce an excitable response in some horses and ponies’ so there is no guarantee. The amount of starch tolerated can be very variable between individuals and for more sensitive horses, it may necessary to reduce the level of starch further. Another factor that can sometimes lead to excitable horses or ponies, is over feeding energy. Should you be unsure whether or not you are providing the correct levels however, get in touch with a nutritionist.

Calling all horse calmers for back up!
Many horse owners also find the use of a calmer helpful. There are several available on the market and often it is a case of finding one that suits your horse.  Numerous ingredients have been associated with helping to reduce nervous/excitable behaviour in horses anecdotally, including herbs such as chamomile and lemon balm. A 10g daily serving of magnesium has now been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on the flight response of horses, which may therefore help to reduce spooky/fizzy behaviour in excitable horses.

Useful tips to easing excitable horses!
  • Keeping your horse or pony in a familiar environment with the same routine to avoid stress.
  • Providing distractions when fireworks are going off overhead such as; licks, snack balls and hanging root vegetables. Playing a radio in your barn or stable block can also help muffle loud noises.
  • For owners with especially anxious horses, it may be a good idea to stay with them at all times, or even speak to your vet about sedation.
  • For horses who live out, try to look out for and remove anything your horse could injure themselves on should they become distressed.

Post Bonfire Night recovery for you and you horse!

If you are aware of any displays close by, look for firework debris once the event is over. Although it may seem obvious, riding near or whilst a display is going on is probably best avoided and riding in company for a week or so if possible may also be a good idea!

By taking some of these tips on board hopefully Guy Fawkes will be the only one who lands up in a heated situation this bonfire night and the rest of us can enjoy the glitter and bangs!

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