Warm Weather Feeding
The warm weather is here and hopefully will be hanging around for the next few months. Here we have a few summer feeding tips and advice on how the warm weather may affect your horse and his feeding regime.
Before we start most importantly get to know your horses eating habits and temperament and take the time daily to observe for a few minutes enabling you to pick up on any weight gain or loss or indeed any change in behaviour which may indicate a problem. We find a horse weight tape is ideal all year round to help you pick up any changes in weight before you may notice them.
Water is the most important, yet often the most overlooked component of your horse’s diet. Daily intake varies, but on average is approximately 50ml/kg for ‘idle’ horses (25 litres per day for a 500kg horse). However increased heat, humidity and exercise results in increased demand, so it’s important to ensure your horse has access to plenty of water.
If you are concerned that your horse is not drinking enough, buckets rather than automatic drinkers can help to monitor intake. Flavouring water with apple juice may help to encourage drinking although if competing under FEI rules, any feed or ‘supplement’ used should be BETA NOPS approved. If possible, taking your own water to shows may be useful for those to reluctant to drink ‘strange’ water.
It is easy to assume that short, sparse or drought damaged grass has little nutritional value but in truth, levels of non-structural carbohydrate (NSC), particularly fructan, may be higher than in longer, greener pasture. Stress caused by overgrazing, drought, poor management and lack of nutrients can result in higher levels of NSC, posing an increased risk for laminitics. As the stem may be higher in the stem than the leaf, so avoid grazing laminitics on hay stubble.
When horses sweat they lose electrolytes (mineral salts) including sodium, potassium and chloride. For most leisure horses and those in light work, free access to water, a salt lick and plenty of forage is more than sufficient for replacing these losses. However for horses sweating heavily on a regular basis such as competition and event horses a combination of table salt and Lo-salt, is a cheap and effective replacement.
Whilst studies have shown that soaking hay for 12-16 hours in tepid water is the most effective method for reducing water soluble carbohydrate (sugar plus fructan, the storage form of sugar in grass and other forages), soaking for long periods in hot weather is not recommended. This considered, reduce your soaking time to 3-6 hours and remember that soaking can never guarantee safety for laminitis
Safe feed storage
This is important at any time of year, but rising temperatures can increase the risk of mould and grain-mites. Feed should be stored in cool (12 degrees or below), dry and preferably dark conditions. Unopened feed should be raised off of the floor e.g. on a pallet, to allow air to circulate. Try to avoid leaving your feed in a hot car for long periods and if feeding small amounts, avoid buying in large volumes to help maintain freshness.