Feeding In Winter

As the temperature decreases with the onset of winter, the horse requires additional dietary energy in order to maintain its body temperature and condition. A horse manages to utilize the dietary energy in the winter to keep warm in a couple of different ways. First, there is the heat given off as a by-product of normal metabolic processes. Secondly, there is the heat generated from microbial fermentation of forages that occurs in the hindgut during digestion. 

Many people believe that feeding more concentrates (because they are energy dense), will help keep the horse warmer. However, there isn't as much heat produced as a byproduct of digestion, absorption and utilization of grains as there is from the microbial fermentation of forages. Consequently, increasing the amount of forage in the diet will help meet the increasing energy needs and will result in an increase in microbial fermentation which will help keep the horse warm. As we go into winter, consider your forage options - even if grass is still available in the field, the nutrition level of it will be minimal, so additional fibre will be required in the form of hay, or a roughage supplement.


Spurwing Lucerne Conditioner Mix is a high fibre, highly palatable feed supplement that contains the Cape’s premium lucerne as well as full fat soya and soya oil to provide your horse with a conditioning mix of nutrients that promote hindgut health and improve overall body condition, especially going into winter. 

Spurwing Hay Presto is a conveniently bagged mix of oat hay, cut to optimum digestible length and sweetened with molasses to provide a highly palatable roughage alternative.  Also ideal for horses needing the best quality roughage in times of box rest. You are assured that your horse is getting GOOD quality hay with little or no waste.


The Importance of Water in Winter.

With the onset of cold weather there is a greater incidence of impaction colic in horses. This is mainly due to the horse becoming dehydrated because he will consume less water due to cooler temperatures (no sweating), less water availability (frozen ponds, cold water, etc.), and a diet of hay (10% water content) instead of pasture (80% water content). When horses drink cold water during the winter, their bodies must expend additional calories to warm their tissues back up from the heat loss that is incurred, so they instinctively drink less. Warming water or using insulated buckets that keep water temperature above freezing will allow the horse to consume more water. Optimum water consumption will keep the fibre in the horse's lower digestive system more hydrated, allowing it to be broken down more quickly by intestinal bacteria and to be more flexible, and less likely to "ball up" and cause a blockage in the large intestine.


Tips for Winter Feeding

·       Feed more hay and roughage supplements in winter. 

·       Encourage water consumption by offering warm water, or use insulated buckets to keep water at a higher temperature, to reduce incidence of impaction colic 

·       Add salt or Spurwing Electrolytes to the feed to increase water consumption and reduce impaction colic risk 

·       Turn the horse out as much as possible, or provide adequate exercise to aid gut motility and prevent colic 

·       Feed hay off the ground or position the hay net below the horse’s head to aid in nasal and lung drainage and lessen incidence of respiratory problems 

·       Assess body condition in unclipped horses by weighing or using a weight tape every 30-60 days – our Spurwing Representatives are happy to help!