With temperatures dropping and the frost setting in, your horses pasture may now start to look rather sparse and those patches of grass that haven’t already been turned into a wallow of mud, are likely to finally stop growing. Many of you will start to worry therefore, that your horses and ponies are no longer getting what they need from their pasture.
Second to water, forage is the most important part of any horses and ponies diet, as fibre from forage provides a valuable source of calories to help maintain the horse’s weight and is essential for maintaining gut health and the absorption of nutrients. It is important to ensure then, that they are receiving a sufficient amount, below are some useful tips to help you do this.
5 Fabulous Truths about Feeding Forage
· Ad-Lib access to forage is ideal for any horse or pony unless they start to gain too much weight
· All horses and ponies (including good doers) need a minimum of 1.5% dry matter of their bodyweight in forage per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse)
· If continuing to turn horses/ponies out to pasture, as a guide, if stabling for approx.12hours, provide no less than a minimum of half their forage ration in their boxes as hay/haylage/hay replacer, as we cannot be sure how much is being received as grass.
· If providing a forage only diet, provide a balancer to ensure the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins.
· Try to avoid long periods of time where your horse or pony has no access to forage which could increase the risk of conditions such as colic/ulcers.
· In winter months, grass intake may need to be virtually ignored, meaning a greater amount will need to be supplemented, especially for poor doers. Additional forage may also need to be provided in the field if possible – you might even find this encourages them to stand away from the gate!
· Although many often think haylage is richer/more nutritious, therefore less is needed in comparison to hay, in fact due to the additional water content of haylage, you need to offer 25-50% more than you would as hay (10-11kg of haylage in place of 7.5kg of hay.)
3 Ways To Manage A Good Doers Forage Intake
· If your horse or pony has a tendency to greedily consume their hay or haylage all at once, consider putting one hay net inside the other, to help slow them down. Placing these nets in several stations around the stable can also help encourage them to take their time.
· For especially good doers, or laminitics, soaking hay for 12-16hours is highly recommended to achieve maximum leaching of water soluble carbohydrates (sugar + fructan – stored sugar in grass)
Does Your Horse Need A Hay Replacer To Stay Happy & Healthy?
· Horses and ponies that can no longer manage long fibre such as hay or haylage will require a hay replacer. From the SPILLERS® range consider SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF®, SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free or SPILLERS® High Fibre Cubes (cubes can be soaked to form a mash) and un-molassed sugar beet is also a great option.
· If providing a hay replacer, ideally this should be provided in as many small servings as possible, and divided between several buckets to help encourage ‘trickle feeding’. If providing a hard feed, offer this first, followed by the hay replacer, so that they do not necessarily see it as another ‘feed’.
There are many ways to ensure then that you horse or pony has sufficient forage this winter, even when struggling with poor pasture. Should you have a more specific query however please contact the SPILLERS® Care-Line of 01908 22 66 26.