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Ponderings of an Equestrian Professional

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#Equestrianblogtober Day 8: What are you feeding your horse this Autumn/Winter?

For me this is not a great question. What, doesn't mean much if you can't explain why!

There are many feed companies advertising a bewildering number of mixes for our horses and ponies.

Shiny Chestnut dressage horse strutting his stuff in the arena
Fit, shiny & healthy Rodney out competing

It is easy to forget that the horse is designed to be a trickle feeder, eating grass and seeking out specific nutrients when they need them.

Horse lying in his stable eating from his feed bowl
Even with a poorly tummy, Rodney still ate his tea.

Having owned a horse with digestive issues, finally losing him to colic 7 years after he had colic surgery I am very cautious putting together a diet for my horses. I don't like making changes, and make them slowly when I have to.

If you have studied feeding with either pony club or the BHS you will have heard of the "Rules Of Feeding". These rules have not changed in all the years I've been working with horses, even though we have more scientific understanding now. The old horseman understood their horses needs very well. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If your horse looks good and is working well - don't change anything.

fit healthy horse shining in the sun
Alfie shining in the sun, healthy inside and out

A shiny coat shows the horse is well inside and out, a result of a good diet.

One thing I have always remembered from university is a horses appetite is 2.5 % of it's bodyweight. All of the food a horse should eat to be healthy, forage and hard feed.

Experience has taught me that when stabled overnight the horse should have at least 1% of it's bodyweight in forage. During the winter they are often in for more than 12 hours each day, and trickle feeders need to be eating for over half of that time. This can be hay or haylage, soaked, steamed or dry. I have always hated seeing a horse that had emptied its haynet by 8pm knowing there would be no more food for it before 8am.

If I could finance it I would use a HayGain steamer. I was lucky enough to have one on the yard for about a year 8 or 9 years ago, and the horses all loved their forage and looked really weloto have one on the yard for about a year 8 or 9 years ago, and the horses all loved their forage and looked really well on it.

No I am not sponsored by Haygain, or any other company I may mention, its just I have used the products and rate them.

When it comes to hard feed I base my boys diet on a fibre source. I have been using Dengie HiFi Molasses free, which has worked for me well. Then I add a source of energy, that I can increase or decrease as necessary. They have access to a salt lick, and I add Garlic, especially in the summer.

I believe in K.I.S.S, Keep It Simple Stupid

My final point is possibly the most important one.

In the wild, horses gain weight while there is plenty of good grass in the spring and summer, to help them survive the leaner times through the winter.

They are supposed to lose weight in winter!

Let them, not so much that they don't have enough energy to do the work you ask, but let them drop off a bit so they can enjoy putting it back on next spring.

See you tomorrow

Don't forget to check out some other #EquestrianBlogtober blogs, click on the link below.

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