Feeding for winter.

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?


4 thoughts on “Feeding for winter.

  1. I’m really fortunate that I’ve never been in a barn where freezing was all that big an issue. For us, getting the horses to drink in the winter was always a bigger job than them losing condition. We never had to make big feeding changes during cold months, just a little more hay and grain in some cases.

  2. We have our horses outside with a run-in shed. They are exposed, so to speak, to all temperatures. Yesterday it was -22 centigrade (that’s cold).
    Yes, everything liquid freezes.
    We feed hay, hay and more hay. We have 3 horses and right now they are eating close to 50 kilos per day. We also feed beet pulp, grass pellets and some barley (oats are out of the question). We add oil, freshly ground flax seed, sunflowers and bokashi (fermented feed with activated effective mico-organisms). They seem to do fine, even when it’s bitter.
    This is the second year we’ve kept them like this. We too had them in boxes over night before – they were in a cold barn though (it froze at night). Since we’ve switched I find them happier and in better health – but they need tons of hay.

  3. If the barn has electricity, this can help with the oil. I had a friend who wanted to keep feeding oil and had freezing sludge issues. She took an old crock pot, filled it 3/4 of the way with H20, and stuck the oil bottle in it while doing barn chores, come feeding time, she had warm oil and warm water for a nice mash, without the worries of forgetting about an electric teakettle boiling dry.

  4. I’ve just finished revising Lyra’s nightly feast. The grass of her forty acre pasture is pretty nubby in the winter and doesn’t sustain her. I was and may yet start with cocosoya oil by Uckele. Decided to first try Moorglo – a rice bran, flax, and soya oil supplement. Lyra loves the stuff and she is a picky eater. She gets this with some Nutrena Safe Choice, over soaked shredded beet pulp. Lucky we don’t often have to worry about things freezing here on the coast.

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