As we head into autumn and winter, we start to make changes to our horse’s routine.
Many horses will be stabled for part of the day and night so aren’t able to graze as much as they’re used to.
The nutrient content of grass decreases, along with the amount of grass in our horse’s fields.
So we need to replace some of the grass with forage (hay and haylage) so they’re getting all they need in their diet.
And so their digestive system, coat and overall health stay in tip-top condition.
You may also choose to give them hard feed and vitamin and mineral supplements.
It’s important to remember that it takes time for a horse to adapt to these changes.
It affects them mentally and also their digestive system.
So, introduce the changes gradually, over about 7-10 days, and think ‘Fibre First’.
We also need to be careful with their grazing in autumn.
Lots of rainfall after a dry spell means the grass grows back to a lovely-looking lush green.
Nice to look at but not so nice for many of our horses!
The sugar content in the grass increases.
Sugar can be as harmful to our horses as it is to us.
Too much can cause laminitis, colic, weight gain and equine metabolic syndrome.
The sugar content in grass changes throughout the day. So it’s best for your horse to only turn them out when levels are lowest if they are sensitive to sugar changes.
It’s easy to remember as the sugar levels fall in line with temperatures.
So they’re low early in the morning, high at the hottest part of the day and lower again in the evening.
Watch out for early morning frosts as these can concentrate the sugars in the grass.
Turning your horse out overnight or only early morning and evening can be better for them at this time of year.
Some horses tend to lose weight over winter.
It might be tempting to bulk them up before winter. But it’s best to keep them at a more constant weight, rather than allow them to lose or gain weight in a hurry.
It’s easy for weight and condition changes to go unnoticed when your horse is rugged most of the time!
Stay on top of your horse’s weight by regularly checking their body condition and using a weight tape. Ideally, do this once a week.
Then you can make smaller changes to their diet and routine as necessary.
Don’t forget to keep them hydrated!
Provide free access to plenty of fresh water.
Horses don’t get thirsty like humans do. So they keep themselves topped up with water throughout the day and night.
You can also add water to their feed if they drink less in the cooler months.