Winter Horse Feeding & Rugging - What to Consider
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Winter Horse Feeding & Rugging - What to Consider

Autumn is definitely here although there are a few sunny days left to enjoy before the really cold weather sets in. Your horses are probably starting to feel the cooler nights which means you have already started to rug them up. It is always nice to wait for as long as possible and on a nice sunny autumn day, horses who are not too thinned skin can certainly be turned out without autumn rugs on. At night however, they might just need a sheet on to keep them warm.If you intend clipping your horse this is the right time of year to think about doing it. However, it does depend on how much of a winter coat has come through. Sometimes if the weather has been good, a horse may start growing their winter coats a little later than they usually do. With this said if you have already clipped your horse, then you will have to make sure they are properly rugged up both during the day and then at night.When it comes to a horse that is stabled at night, many people think they don't need to rug them up as much as if the horse was turned out. However, this is not the case at all because a horse standing in will feel the cold a lot more. The reason being because they can't get warm by moving around as much as they would when turned out. With this said it is important to make sure a horse that's stabled whether at night or during the day, is properly rugged up.

Putting Several Rugs On Your Horse

If you are putting several rugs on your horse, make sure all the straps are fitted to the correct length and that none of them are worn or broken. Any under rugs have to be put on securely so that the over rugs sit properly on them. Belly straps should not be too low and tail straps have to be comfortable for the horse. If your rug has leg straps, make sure they are at the correct length so your horse doesn't get their legs caught up in them. If a horse does get their legs tangled in straps happens not only will your horse go into a panic, but the rug will get torn and ruined.Indoor rugs are better without leg straps and should just have tail straps as these are a lot safer to use on a stabled horse. Some horses need to have surcingles when they are rugged up in order to keep their rugs in place. If you do have to use a surcingle then make sure you don't put it on too tight, you don't want to make the horse uncomfortable by cutting of their circulation which could end up in a disaster and cause any sores.

Winter Rugs Are Expensive Items to Buy

Winter rugs are expensive, which means replacing them can really make a hole in your budget. With this said, there are some great waterproofing products on the market that work very well indeed. If you can afford to have your winter rugs professionally waterproofed when they need it then this is something that is definitely worth thinking about. Although it might be a little more expensive than doing it yourself, if you have never used the product before having someone who knows what to do could be your best option.

Is It Worth Repairing a Damaged Winter Rug?

Sometimes it is just not worth getting a winter rug repaired especially if your horse has really trashed it. However, if the rug just has a few tears in it or a belly strap needs fixing, then it could be worth sending or taking the rug to someone who can repair it and then make sure it is waterproofed again too.

Time to Start Winter Feeding

The one thing you will notice is that the grass out in your fields is not growing as fast as it did a few weeks or months ago which means it is time to think about winter feeding. This includes organising a supply of good quality hay for your horse to eat over the colder winter months. Remember, your horse needs free access to hay, but not just any hay because it has to be a good quality hay with plenty of goodness in it. Horses need a constant supply of fibre and roughage which is often referred to as long feed.Remember fibre is absolutely essential when it comes to maintaining good digestive function. During the spring and summer months your horse will get the majority of fibre they need from grass. When autumn arrives your horse will still get enough from the grass when they are turned out. However, over the winter months you are going to have to supplement your horse's diet with good either good quality hay, haylage, chaff or even oat straw. The amount you feed your horse really does depend on the amount of work you have them in.

What About Concentrates?

Concentrates, or hard/short feeds with high levels of nutrients and energy should not form more than half your horse's dietary needs, remember roughage makes up the majority of this. If your horse is going to be in hard work like hunting, then you will need to think about feeding straights to them too. These are cereals and grains which are often oats and barley. These cereals are rolled or crushed, heat-treated or bruised in order to improve their digestibility. However, straights should not be fed to horses or ponies in light work as this will just make them fat and/or difficult to manage.Compound feeds are another option for you to consider whether these are cubes, pellets or pre-mixes. These feeds do make life a lot easier when it comes to working out a good feeding regime for your horse because they are specifically prepared to suit certain types of horses and ponies. They are formulated for the type of work horses are in too. When it comes to succulents, soaked sugar-beet pulp is great but then so are carrots and carrots which are all very good to bulk out rations and are marvellous to use to tempt fussy eaters.

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