Cold season has arrived and it’s important to answer this question: are we ready to satisfy our horses’ needs during the winter? Equiplanet wants to give you some nutritional advice to avoid mistakes that could compromise good shape and, as a result, the future competition season.
It’s very difficult to give an answer because the most appropriate thing to relay on a nutritionist to evaluate diet changing from the starting shape of the horse at the moment. Surely, more calories are consumed to maintain body temperature, but it’s not guaranteed that it’s necessary increasing the quantity of feed if the horse is overweight or if it will reduce the training amount during the week. For horses that have to maintain the shape, can be enough to increase energy.
The first way is increasing hay or giving a further part of alfa alfa hay or a complementary feed rich in fiber and fat like Fat Fiber. In this kind of management, you avoid the risk to give too many starches, as we would do if we decided to raise grains amount. A big quantity of these complex sugars can cause muscular or metabolic problems.
Another possibility to provide calories is using fat with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, and we administered with oils. We have to prefer the ones specially formulated for horses like Oil Performance, to avoid absorption and metabolism difficulty that end in soft faeces and diarrhoea.
If we chose to increase calories using hay, we would ensure that the horse intakes a good amount of water, to avoid constipation and cholic problems. We can do it in two ways: the first way is using mineral salts like Master Lyte and Reidral + CY, that help the animal to drink. We have to pay attention to water distribution system: if it was an automatic system, we would control that the horse drinkers are useful and they don’t freeze.
A valid alternative to salts is a mash like Pastone H New, which can be administered with warm water and it is useful not only for hydration but also for regular intestinal functioning. It’s very easy to prepare it because we have only to add hot water. Mash can be administered once a week in place of grains or the usual complementary feed.
To help the horse to improve the digestion of starches provided by fiber and grains, we suggest adding Saccharomyces Cerevisiae in the daily feed. It’s a yeast that contributes to restoring physiological intestinal conditions, such as Equigest Plus.
An organ that promotes digestion, but we often ignore, is the liver. Digestion is not its only function, it’s also involved in fat absorption and consequently in Vitamins A, D, E, K. The liver has a primary role for detoxifying harmful substances for the body. The sport horse always has to follow diet rich in nutrients and sometimes it receives prophylactic and therapeutic treatments that can reduce liver functionality.
We recommend doing periodic cycles with complementary feeds specially formulated to promote liver functions like Epatoliv. One of the moments in which we most suggest to use it in the late autumn period, when the horse is at the end of training and competition season and it needs help to support liver functionality, that for many months has been stressed.
A system subjected to strain during cold season is also the respiratory one: cold, wet, fog, dust can disturb normal functions of airways. To support respiratory function we can use complementary feeds like Jodoresp which components (Iodine and essential oils) have an important balsamic action.
The last thing to remember is helping immune system and contrasting oxidative stress during cold winter. Contrary to man, the horse can produce vitamin C in the liver, but in case of stress, requirements will increase and so it will be necessary to add this vitamin to the daily feed. One of the most involved systems is surely the respiratory one, that in winter have to contrast the alteration of its functionality caused by many factors. To add Vitamin C is enough to buy a product containing ascorbic acid like Protex C.
Not all complementary feeds are similar, that’s why we have to choose them carefully. Microencapsulated Vitamin C, like the one contained in Protex C, can bypass the stomach and be totally absorbed by the lug. In fact, the amount to administer will be reduced for this kind of product.
All these nutritional proceedings are basic for horse health in winter and cold season, but we have to do it together with appropriate training. If weather conditions will permit, we suggest to move horses every day, also during cold season; if temperatures are particularly cold and riding the horses becomes difficult, we can leave them at the paddock in warmer hours with blankets or longe them.