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Feeding For the Changing Seasons

Feeding for the Changing Season

As the season starts to change from summer to autumn, your thoughts will be turning to when to bring your horse or pony in from summer turn-out, along with which forage and fibre feeds to choose for the winter ahead.

Every horse owner should take into consideration their horse or pony’s diet with the changing of the seasons. From summer to autumn, there is still a risk for horses and ponies prone to laminitis, so you should be aware of this.

When grass grows under normal conditions, it contains high levels of soluble sugars and non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs). When there is a ground frost and grass is frozen, the grass accumulates more sugars to try and enable it to carry on growing in adverse conditions. This extra sugar content can be one of several different triggers for laminitis. If a horse or pony is prone to laminitis, it should be fed a low sugar, low starch and high fibre diet. It is important not to starve horses and ponies prone to laminitis as this can cause further problems. Choose forage that has a lower sugar content than hay and, ideally, a complete feed suitable for horses and ponies prone to laminitis that contains a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement such as Mollichaff HoofKind Complete.

From autumn to winter, as the temperature drops, your horse or pony will need to consume more calories to maintain its body temperature. These extra calories should, ideally, come from forage as the horse’s system has to work harder and longer to digest fibre, thus creating more warmth. Also the nutritional value of grass will be reduced too and so extra forage or concentrates will need to be provided to make up for this. From winter to spring, calories may need to be reduced again to prevent too much weight gain once horses are out grazing on the fresh pasture and the weather warms up, and at this time there is once again the heightened risk of laminitis.