Winter horse care demands a little more organization because of nutritional concerns that need to be addressed as temperatures drop. As the weather turns cold, many horses are ridden less and less. Lower temperatures, wind and wet conditions cause a tremendous demand on the horse’s body for heat production.
These factors can cause the horse to lose weight and body condition depending on the severity and duration of the cold season and the amount of energy the horse receives from its feed. The primary matters that need to be addressed include insuring adequate caloric intake, proper hydration and recognizing which nutrients may be necessary to maintain a horse’s optimal health and well-being during the winter season.
High Quality, Unrefined Fatty Acids
In cold weather, the horse may need more calories to generate heat to keep warm and might need help maintaining optimal weight, Oil is rich in calories and burns more slowly than starches to help the horse maintain a comfortable body temperature without decreasing body weight or creating stress due to discomfort. A high quality, unrefined oil provides a considerable benefit because of its properties as a dense, calming energy source, which results in stable weight management while preventing blood-sugar related mood swings. One of the most significant benefits to good quality, unrefined fat supplementation is fat's ability to keep the blood-sugar pattern steady, stable and predictable.
Inadequate fat intake contributes to unstable blood-sugar patterns that stress the horse's metabolism by causing an increase in the release of cortisol, adrenalin and insulin. When these hormones are over-relied on, the increases can affect mood, performance, immune function and injury prevention. Because fats digest so much more slowly, the blood sugar does not become disrupted as easily, thus reducing the amount and frequency of stress hormone and insulin release, which then reduces internal inflammatory stress.
Easy keepers also need good quality fat sources in smaller amounts to stabilize normal endocrine function and blood sugar patterns. This aids greatly in balancing the levels of the stress hormones and insulin, which can substantially reduce excessive inflammatory stress. In addition, the essential fats can allow lactating mares to breed again more quickly, enable horses to more efficiently and safely meet their energy requirements, improve coat condition, and reduce dehydration risk because a by-product of fat metabolism is water. This is especially important in colder weather.
Vitamin Mineral Formulas
Since lower quality forages are often used in winter in order to maximize access and intake. It is very likely that vitamins and minerals are lost in prolonged storage. A comprehensive vitamin/mineral supplement can provide key nutrients that may be deficient or imbalanced in the horse’s diet during winter months.
Ingredients determined to be important in a quality vitamin/mineral formula include high potency vitamins and minerals, amino acids with the three most important amino acids: L-Lysine, DL-Methionine and L-Threonine, trace elements in time-release and chelated form, high levels of vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, bone strengthening Silicon, chromium to support sugar metabolism, grape seed, digestive enzymes, prebiotics and Malic Acid to support a healthy metabolism. In addition, manufacturing techniques for a quality vitamin mineral formula should utilize technologies that provide higher nutrient bioavailability, as well as ensuring that viable, living pro-biotics are made available to your horse.
Joint Formulas ranging from maintenance support, to moderate and strong support
Joint and bone health is important for horses of all ages and activity levels in all seasons, but becomes particularly important with the stress of colder weather. Colder weather is a greater stress on the joints because it takes much longer for joint and connective tissue to warm up, causing them to be more easily stressed even if there is not an existing, current joint issue. As a general rule, it is a good idea to utilize a balanced joint supplement during colder weather to minimize the effect of consistently cold weather on joint health and function. Year around, joint support ingredients are excellent for horses with existing joint issues and also as a supportive, preventive measure.
An important consideration to take into account is that the horse is a grazer by nature, and during the summer months of plenty, pasture may provide many horses with more nutrition. Because feeding materials change fairly drastically due to colder temperatures. Nutritional adjustments be made to meet their dietary needs. In addition, he points out that horses confined to stalls for prolonged periods of time during inclement weather may also experience psychological stress that can affect digestive health.
A high strength digestive aid to help ease gut related issues from stress or discomfort due to cold temperatures. A quality, full-spectrum formula combines probiotics, prebiotics, microbials and digestive enzymes to aid in optimizing digestion and assimilating nutrients from feed, forage and supplements.
Research has shown that the risk of impaction colic is dramatically increased by inadequate water intake, reduced physical activity and a lower quality forage intake, all of which can be present in cold winter months. The importance of making certain horses receive an adequate amount of hydration when they are not as inclined to drink extremely cold or icy water in winter months. Proper electrolyte balance and hydration becomes a priority for horse owners. Feeding daily electrolytes can help provide essential, balanced amounts of the major electrolytes for hydration, energy production, muscular contraction and relaxation, acid base balance, heart and lung function and the ability of all the muscles to recover from any type of stress.
In addition, electrolytes are essential for mineral balance, to maintain the balance and flow of vital body fluids, the transmission of nerve impulses and the healthy function of the muscles and the circulatory system.
Focus and Calming Formulas
Colder temperatures and decreased exercise can cause your horse to be more excitable. Some horses who already have a tendency to overreact to stressful events have metabolisms that are over-energized. They utilize more energy than is required for the magnitude of the demands that they are experiencing. These horses are difficult to calm, have a tendency to be hyper-excitable and lose focus because of the excess energy usage. A formula that contains a number of nutrients and plant extracts that can support a relaxing, stabilizing effect on the brain and nervous system.
Horsesdaily article first posted 11/25/2011