To stay warm in cold temperatures, the horse has to burn energy, which can come from stored sources (e.g., body fat) or from the diet. Horses in good body condition have some body fat stores to burn for energy, but thin horses have little to no body fat stores from which to draw. In cold weather, fat reserves can be rapidly depleted and need to be constantly replenished. Therefore, supplying energy in the diet is essential to avoid weight loss.
While most nutrient requirements will remain unchanged or increase only slightly in the winter, the digestible energy (DE) requirement will increase significantly. On average, a horse requires 1.4% (0.23 Mcal) more DE for every 1o F drop in temperature. That means if the lower end of the comfort zone is 30 o F, then a 10 o F drop in ambient temperature would mean an average size horse (1,100 pounds) at maintenance would require 14% more DE. Generally, this means the horse has to increase intake (either grain or forage) to satisfy the energy requirement; however, some horse are unable or unwilling to eat more (horse is at maximum intake). In such cases, increasing the calorie-dense feedstuffs in the diet (e.g., grain, oil) and feeding excellent quality hay is necessary. However, caution should be taken not to overfeed grain and/or reduce hay so as to put the horse at risk for digestive upset. Always keep the forage intake equal to or (preferably) higher than the grain intake.
Compliments of MET Corporate Sponsor McCauley Bros. Inc.
Established in 1938, McCauley Bros. is headquartered in the heart of the Bluegrass country. Devoted to the care of these special animals, this company is engaged in the manufacture of premium quality feeds and nutritional supplements exclusively for the horse. The goal of McCauley Bros. is a simple one: to help produce sound, healthy horses by manufacturing the finest horse feeds in the world. In order to achieve this goal, McCauley’s manufactures only horse feed, adopts an uncompromising insistence in using only the very finest ingredients available, and applies the most stringent of quality control measures to all aspects of production. The result of these efforts is feed of exceptional consistency and value. McCauley’s also has two equine nutritionists on-staff and available for consultation. For more information, please visit www.mccauleybros.com.