Winter can be a challenging time for horse owners with fewer day light hours and dealing with cold, wet and muddy conditions. It can also be a time when some horses, particularly older horses, really struggle to maintain their weight and condition. Horses that live out can require a third more energy than those stabled and naturally poor doers need to have their weight managed constantly to avoid weight loss.
It is important to note that sudden weight loss is more serious and may be a sign of disease, although trauma can also cause a horse to lose weight quickly. Before looking at your horse’s feeding, check the following non-nutritional causes of weight loss:
- Teeth: sharp edges may be causing pain and discomfort and therefore reducing intake
- Worms: in un-wormed horses, feed often provides nutrition for the worms rather than the horse
- Pain: horses in pain, especially with chronic back or muscle problems, do not thrive
- Disease: discuss the problem with your vet if the weight loss has happened quickly
The first step when trying to combat winter weight loss is to offer quality ad-lib forage in the stable and the field. Feeding plenty of quality forage is essential to keeping the horse’s digestive system in good working order and the digestion of fibre also helps the horse to keep warm, which is particularly important during cold weather.
Stabilized Rice bran is excellent for improving the body condition and top line of underweight horses because it is a combination of rice oil and highly digestible fibre.
Maintaining good coat condition throughout the winter months can also be difficult however feeding Omega 3 fatty acids which can be found in Linseed & Rice Bran will help maintain coat and skin condition and additionally will also maintain immune function and to assist repair processes.
Linseed & Rice bran are also ideal sources of slow release energy. High oil feeds are also less likely to cause behavioural problems so help boost stamina and energy without excitability.
EA Bloom and Condition Pellets are a carefully formulated blend of high oil, high omega 3, stabilized rice bran and full fat linseed, with added antioxidants including Vitamin E and Rosemary, to help protect muscles and calcium to ensure a balanced calcium:phosphorus ration is maintained.
It’s also important to maintain healthy digestion so probiotics, prebiotics and yeast will help and are useful in horses which worry weight off, those competing hard or recovering from colic or antibiotic treatment. Pro-Gut Balancer is a unique triple action pre and probiotic with MOS, on a palatable linseed and alfalfa base. Pro-Gut Balancer helps to:
- Promote optimum digestive function and energy production from dietary fibre sources (about 60-70% of the energy the horse needs comes from microbial fibre digestion)
- Promote synthesis of vital B vitamins and vitamin K by the gut microbiota
- Prevent colonization by pathogenic or undesirable micro-organisms resulting in a drop in hindgut pH leading to further metabolic dysfunction.
- Boost immunity