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The colder the weather, the higher the hay consumption

The observation many stable owners are experiencing these days has a straightforward explanation: horses utilize the majority of the energy generated as heat during fiber digestion in the large intestine to sustain their core body temperature.

As the outdoor temperatures drop, horses require more fiber-rich food to obtain the necessary energy for maintaining warmth. When feeding in portions, it’s important to consider that as temperatures drop, the portions should be larger to meet the increased energy demands of horses in colder weather. Concentrated feed has a limited role in heat production and should not be increased.

It is primarily used to rapidly provide energy for physical activity. Nevertheless, since most riders tend to ride less in colder temperatures, concentrated feed should be administered more sparingly as the temperature drops.

Providing suitable mineral feed during winter as well

(Note regarding the following recommendations: We collaboratively develop healthy feed supplements with OKAPI, and hence, we consistently endorse them in our consultations. Additionally, we recommend products from other manufacturers that we firmly believe in, such as Agrobs.)

You should also resume offering mineral feed, at the latest, when the coat changes in spring. The shedding of the coat results in an increased loss of zinc and sulfur from the body, which must be replenished accordingly.

As the mineral content of roughage can vary greatly from field to field and from harvest to harvest, the addition of mineral feed is highly recommended to prevent deficiency symptoms during the change of coat.

For most horses, providing a pure mineral and trace element mixture, like OKAPI Pure Minerals G, is sufficient. Alternatively, if the forage originates from mineral-poor sandy or peaty soils, consider using OKAPI Grazing Mineral GS.

In winter, it’s crucial to ensure that young, growing horses receive an adequate protein supply. If you typically feed lean (horse-friendly) hay, OKAPI Junior Minerals G can compensate for this by providing essential amino acids such as lysine, methionine, and threonine, crucial for muscle development.

Horse portrait close up, detail. Horses hugging. Cozy friendship relaxed no stress
© Mani / AdobeStock

Horses older than 20 often experience a condition known as malabsorption disorder. Behind the cumbersome name lies the simple fact that, as horses age, their digestive system becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients, resulting in fewer of the nutrients from their diet reaching their metabolism.

To counteract this, consider using a high-dose mineral feed, such as OKAPI Senior Minerals G. At the beginning of the grazing season, many horses may stop consuming mineral feed, as they can obtain sufficient minerals from the pasture grass.

Wild horses eat branches and twigs in the cold season

From February onwards, many horses exhibit an increased interest in gnawing on branches and twigs. Their bark and leaf residues provide numerous secondary plant substances and are a typical part of the winter diet for wild horses.

As branches, twigs, and fallen leaves are part of what nature offers in winter, the metabolism of horses has adapted accordingly.

Not every horse owner has the opportunity to provide branches and twigs or have accessible bushes and trees on the turnout for winter gnawing. In such situations, OKAPI Leaves and Bark can be provided as an alternative. This provides the horse with secondary plant substances from the leaves and bark, making a valuable contribution to metabolic regulation.

Nevertheless, it can be observed that horses do not spurn wood, perhaps due to the pleasurable act of ‘gnawing’. The theory is that horses attempt to shorten their incisors, insufficiently worn down by hay during the winter, by intensively gnawing wood, especially in February/March.

Berries, rosehips and seeds

In the last winter months, horses often enjoy picking berries and rose hips left over from the summer on the bushes, as well as harvesting the remaining seed heads of some plants. These seeds are often rich in fat and protein while containing little starch. OKAPI Wild Berries can serve as a good alternative in this regard.

OKAPI Wild Berries healthy feed supplements for horses
OKAPI Wild Berries © OKAPI GmbH

They can be alternately sprinkled with OKAPI Rosehips on the paved turnout or the grooming area. The horses have a great time picking up the berries and chewing on them with relish. Red berries and rosehips, in particular, contain a lot of beta-carotene, which helps horses normalize their vitamin A balance.

OKAPI Wild Seeds are a mixture of starch-free, but very protein- and fat-rich seeds, as horses also find in nature in winter. They provide high-quality, unsaturated fatty acids, which are not only essential for metabolism but also for skin lubrication. Horses with skin problems such as eczema, but also those with dry, flaky skin, benefit in particular from feeding fatty seeds in winter and during the change of coat.

They can be offered alternately with linseed and unpeeled sunflower seeds available in normal specialist shops to optimize the fatty acid pattern and provide variety in the diet.

That’s how to feed your horse in a species-appropriate and healthy way through the cold season!