Horse and bag

Feeding your horse this winter

Winter can pose challenges for horse owners with cold weather, more rain and reduced nutrients from grazing. At this time of year monitoring your horse’s weight is essential to ensure that they are in good condition and not over or under weight. Using a weight tape regularly to assess your horse's weight will mean that you can spot any changes quickly and alter the diet accordingly.

The winter months can be of particular worry to owners with elderly horses, particularly those with bad teeth. Monitoring older horses’ weight and ensuring they are able to chew their food is vital to keep them fit and healthy. Teeth should be checked at least once a year if not twice. Heygates Twilight Years makes an ideal addition to forage. It is a superior quality coarse mix made with soft palatable cooked flaked cereals. It is formulated to meet the fibre, protein and energy requirements of the older horse. The protein is medium level to prevent muscle wasting and Twilight Years also has increased levels of vitamins and minerals to help with condition and immune function.

Some horses often struggle to maintain their weight and condition in winter, particularly the lighter breeds such as Thoroughbreds, due to the reduced amount and quality of grass and also the colder weather increasing the energy required for maintenance. Good quality hay or haylage is vital for these horses. This can be combined with a conditioning feed such as Heygates Conditioning Cubes or Conditioning Mix. These products have been formulated especially to add and maintain condition on all horses and ponies. The oil level is increased, so energy is provided by a balance of oil and carbohydrates. A live yeast supplement is added to both products to aid digestion.

For some horses the winter brings an increased workload, for example those who hunt or continue to compete indoors. For these horses, their increased workload combined with cold weather means their energy needs increase and therefore their feed intake needs to increase. For horses and ponies that are in hard work at this time of year, Heygates Challenger Mix would be a suitable feed to complement some good quality forage. Heygates Challenger Mix is a high energy molassed coarse mix with a balance of oil and carbohydrate energy sources. It also contains increased levels of Vitamin E to help prevent oxidation. ALWAYS REMEMBER THE RULE: FEED FOR THE WORK HE HAS DONE- DO NOT ANTICIPTATE WORK.

Another issue many horse owners will be facing over the next few months will be stabling; the cold, wet weather can often mean horses are stabled for longer periods of time and this can have detrimental effects on their behaviour and health. Naturally horses have a strong desire to chew, in the wild they would be grazing for up to 16 hours a day. If this isn’t taken into account behaviours known as stereotypies can occur. These behaviours include wind sucking, weaving and crib biting. As well as these behaviours health issues such as colic and gastric ulcers can occur. To prevent these behaviours and health issues, ensure there is a plentiful supply (ideally ad lib) of a good quality hay or haylage; it should be mould free and have no excessive dust. Also, to prevent the health issues any changes in the type of feed should be made gradually to avoid digestive upset.

Finally, WATER! Water remains just as important in the winter months as it is in the summer. With freezing conditions water troughs, buckets and automatic drinkers need to be checked daily to ensure they are not iced over. Some horses can also be very fussy and not like drinking very cold water. Therefore, adding water to their feed could help get extra water into your horse.


For further information on any of the Heygates products or for feeding advice please contact us on feedsales@heygates.co.uk or 01604 833250.