EQUUS - - Special Report -

When pas­ture dies back in win­ter, hay re­places grass as the foun­da­tion of a horse’s diet. A horse on ad­e­quate pas­ture full-time will be con­tin­u­ously di­gest­ing wa­ter-rich grass, ideal for pre­vent­ing colic. In win­ter, how­ever, meals of dry hay are more common and can be as­so­ci­ated with colic. Not only is drier for­age more likely to cre­ate in­testi­nal block­ages, but the gut slows in the hours spent wait­ing for hay to be served twice a day.

For­age also fig­ures in another common win­ter­time chal­lenge: Horses will burn more calo­ries in cold weather to stay warm and, in some cases, may be­gin to drop weight as a re­sult. The nat­u­ral in­stinct is to in­crease a horse’s feed to coun­ter­act the weight loss. But in­creas­ing grain in­stead of for­age is a mis­take. Not only are you miss­ing the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide more gut-healthy hay, but the ad­di­tional con­cen­trates can lead to gas colic as the high-calo­rie feed fer­ments in the gut.

The best win­ter­time feed­ing prac­tices in­clude fre­quent, pri­mar­ily hay­based meals. Us­ing a slow feeder to

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