Feeding horses in cold weather: tips & advice for this winter

Chestnut horse in a blue rug stands in a snowy paddock next to a timber fence and a large round black water tub. The horse is facing the camera, with ears pricked forward.

Why does the changing temperature affect horses?

Feeding horses in cold weather brings a few considerations when the temperatures drop. Grazing doesn’t provide our horses with the same nutritional benefits they get in the summer months, and the quality of forage is affected by the cold, leading to lower levels of available vitamins and minerals in forage sources. 

On top of that, the winter means your horse could be burning more calories to stay comfortable and maintain their workload. It’s no wonder it can be a bit confusing when you think about feeding horses in cold weather!

Adapt your routine for winter condition(s)

During winter, it can take a little more for our horses to replace expended energy. If we don’t adapt our feeding techniques over winter, our horses can struggle to maintain weight, keep warm, and continue to work at their usual levels. 

It’s also worth considering your long-term goals. Going into a new year and leading up to competition season, often our horse’s exercise regimes and workloads increase. Factor this into your feeding decisions for winter to help maximise your chances for spring.

Feeding horses in cold weather

There are some simple and effective ways of helping your horse with their nutritional intake. However, this is only temporary and as soon as the spring and its first flush of grass arrives, our challenges with our horses will change.

Think about your forage

It is likely that our horses are currently receiving less than the normal intake of good stuff from hay, haylage and grazing. They may be under an increased workload and/or living in cold-climate conditions, meaning they need more nutritional support. Make sure they have access to grazing or a good quality forage supply to help keep them warm and replace energy.

Veteran horses: consider dentition and chew

Our golden oldies can struggle to consume enough forage in winter if they have poor dentition and have a hard time with long fibres. If this is the case, a soaked hay replacer like Pure Meadow Mash or short chop chaff can be used to replace or top up their forage intake. 

Vitamins & minerals

The nutritional value of grazing decreases in cold weather and horses are often on restricted turnout in poor conditions. As a result, through this time of year, our horses can lack some of the essential nutrients in their diet.

How do I top up my horse's essential nutrients?

A feed balancer containing all of the required vitamins and minerals alongside high-quality amino acids, such as our Pure Balance, should be included in horse’s feed to ensure they are receiving a fully balanced diet.

Handful of pellet feed - Pure Balance includes the essential vitamins and nutrients important for your horse's health

Does my horse need more calories when it gets cold?

Consider all the contributing factors and the demands that we are putting on our horses at this time of year. It is no wonder that maintaining weight and condition with some horses can be a problem. You may need to move your horse onto a feed with a higher oil content such as Pure Condition; a fibre-based feed perfect for horses that may have dropped off in weight over winter.

Feeding horses in cold weather: boost calories, minimise fizz

A high oil feed can also be added to our horse’s diets to increase their calorie and protein intake. Linseed is perfect for the job as it is low in sugar and starch so won’t cause diet-related excitable behaviour but will provide extra calories to support weight maintenance.

Most of your horse's energy should still come from forage!

Don’t forget that hard feed and supplements should only provide up to 30% – 40% of the horse’s energy requirement. What is often overlooked and must not be marginalised is that the balance of 60% to 70% needs to come from hay, haylage and grazing.

Free equine nutrition advice

Any questions? You can contact our friendly nutrition team on 01458 333 333 Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, send us an email or get a free bespoke diet plan.

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