Adjusting Your Horse's Nutrition for the Winter Season: Dr. Kelton's Guidelines

Horses pulling a sledge in a winter wonderland.
Horses pulling a sledge in a winter wonderland. Smerikal

Newsdate: Friday, December 14, 2018, 2:00 pm
For some of us, winter has already arrived. For others, it's just beginning in earnest. For all of us, the horse is facing some challenges.

Horses pulling a sleigh through snow.

Horses pulling a sleigh through snow

A number of horse health conditions made worse by the winter environment may dictate the need for supplementation not required in summer months.
© 2016 by kyslynskahal

Horses actually tolerate and enjoy the cold a lot more than most of us do. Their neutral temperature, with no energy expended to either keep warm or cool off, is in the 40s Fahrenheit, the same as your refrigerator.

However, a number of health conditions made worse by the winter environment may dictate the need for supplementation not required in summer months. A few nutritional tweaks can pay off in weight maintenance, reduced colic risk, better hydration and hoof health.

In winter, some horses tend to have difficulty holding a good body weight. Healthy fats can help hold weight and condition, as well as help maintain a glossy coat and strong solid hooves. In winter, they are perfect for providing cool calories in a palatable energy source.

Your horse needs a vitamin and mineral supplement matched to your hay. This isn't something you want to skimp on just because the horse is not working as much. These are the nuts and bolts that keep the immune system healthy and literally every cell functioning.

Electrolytes aren't just for sweating horses. They are for every day, all year. There are baseline requirements present all year for Sodium, Potassium and Chloride. Failure to meet them easily leads to inadequate water consumption and a chronic tissue dehydration which can result in the most common type of cold weather colic impaction. Electrolytes keep the horse drinking well and support normal intestinal function.

If your horse spends considerable time in the barn, or faces long periods of confinement due to weather, you have some special considerations. Being stall bound is difficult for some horses leading to nervousness and undesirable behaviors like weaving, stall walking and wood chewing. This is a perfect time for herbal and nutritional calming alternatives.

A barn that is closed up tightly to keep out the cold and wind can be warm and cozy but very hard on the respiratory tract. Ammonia from bacterial break down as well as mold spores and small particles from hay and straw combine to irritate the tissues and set the stage for chronic lung conditions.

Stale air in close quarters also concentrates viruses, which have a much easier time setting up house in irritated lungs. Targeted vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients like Spirulina, Jiaogolan, Gynostemma that support balanced immune responses will help.

Frozen, uneven ground or wet, muddy conditions may mean your horse's feet need more attention. The hoof wall contains a specialized form of the same protein found in skin, which is keratin.

Key nutrients for the hoof are also the same as those for skin. These include the B Vitamin Biotin and Pyridoxine and the essential amino acids L-Lysine and L-Methionine. Fat plays a pivotal role in the protective barriers in skin and hoof and especially Copper and Zinc, are key to structural integrity and resistance to infections.

About Dr. Kellon

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience.  Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition is an innovation-driven health company committed to being on the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years.  Uckele takes pride in formulating and manufacturing a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances for equine athletes and companion animals to help achieve optimal health.

Press release provided by Ukelele Health and Nutrition - This is a reprint of an article posted earlier.

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