On Friday I wrote about the importance of hydration, especially in the winter. It got me thinking about the changes I’ve been making to my horse’s feeding regime.
This is the first winter when I haven’t had my horse in a bank barn. One of the real advantages to that barn was that it stayed cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. I never had problems with soaking beet pulp or hay cubes there because they didn’t freeze. That’s not the case where my horse is now. While there are advantages (more turnout space, for example), in bone chilling weather like we’ve had for the past week, everything liquid freezes.
Feeding Freedom has been an iterative process. He’s a bit of a hard keeper (last year he got a bit ribby) but also doesn’t do well on grain (which makes him too hot). The foundation of his feed is a ration balancer and alfalfa pellets. From there I add enough calories to keep him happy but sane. Over the summer that’s included soaked beet pulp, oil and sometimes soaked hay cubes. The oil has now become a semi-frozen sludge and leaving anything soaking is completely out of the question. So far this is what I’ve come up with:
Added some hay stretcher to his alfalfa pellets.
I’m feeding him rice bran as a fat source. It’s not ideal (it has a fairly high starch content and it is not as good a source of fat as oil, but it can be fed dry)
On the days that I feed I mix in some soaked beet pulp. Since it’s a forage I don’t worry about feeding it just a few days a week. In fact I make the beet pulp pretty soupy and add it into his regular meal. He seems to enjoy slurping up the mix and I think it’s a good way to add a bit of water.
I top dress his grain with salt to encourage him to drink more.
When it’s cold out I usually give the horses some extra hay, too, as it helps keep them warm.
What does everyone else do?