Here’s a good article I read which should be useful for anyone with native ponies – http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/13-tips-for-feeding-natives-in-the-winter-415979?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social
I had a think about my horses diets, as I do every so often, and as the nutrition in the grass is decreasing their hay ration needs increasing, but not too much otherwise they will get too fat.
At the beginning of October, when there was the autumnal flush of grass there wasn’t a huge amount of grass in the field and I didn’t want them to overgraze and stress the field, possibly pulling grass out by the roots as the ground was softer and thus jeopardising next years growth. So I began feeding hay in the field in the afternoons. Then once this routine was established I also started letting them graze the track outside their field for a couple of hours in the morning. This meant that they had two forage meals as well as their hard feed.
It’s always easy to tell with Otis if he’s hungry. He’ll march over to me as soon as I come into sight when he’s peckish, and when you bring him in he tries to eat the grass on the way in.
So I kept this routine, with two large slices of hay in the afternoon. Each slice weighs approximately five kilograms.
Then last week I upped the boys’ hay ration and stopped them eating on the track. Mainly because there wasn’t much grass, but I also couldn’t spend as long there in the mornings to supervise them.
Instead of giving the horses a larger hay ration in the afternoon I’ve started taking five kilos to them in the morning and then the rest in the afternoon.
Now I’ve reached the point that I think the grass has a negligible nutrition content so I wanted to do the maths to see how much I was feeding compared to their requirements.
Let’s start with Otis. He weighs 600kgs and is in moderate work so I feel he needs to be fed 2.5% of his body weight. He is not a horse that gets fat easily and he was rather slim and svelte in September, so I don’t want him to burn any fat off.
2.5% of 600kgs is 15kgs. The horses get 7.5kgs of hay each, providing they share it equally. They share hay piles amicably so that isn’t a concern of mine. Otis’s hard feed consists of approximately 3kgs. So I am providing 10.5kgs of food a day. At the moment I think he can get the rest from grass in the field, but I need to keep a close eye on his weight and adjust his rations.
Llani on the other hand is a good doer. At 500kgs he’s always looking on the chubby side. He doesn’t work as hard as Otis and had a good covering in the summer, so I feel he only needs 2% of his body weight in feed – 10kgs a day. His hard feed is negligible as it is more of a thank you gesture after he’s been exercised, and the hay ration is 7.5kgs. Again, this is a slight deficit to the suggested amount, but I’m sure he is getting enough food, as well as utilising some late growing grass.
The important thing at this time of year is to be critical of their weight all the time, and be ready to increase the forage immediately because it is incredibly difficult to put on weight in winter, much easier to maintain it. Adjusting their rugs so poor doers aren’t burning calories keeping themselves warm, and good doers are burning calories to generate body heat.
When I think the grass has stopped growing – when the temperature drops and we have a frost, the horses will start to have as lib hay in the field. I find that once they have gotten used to constant food they don’t gorge, and tend to self limit their intake. I hope to then be able to reduce Otis’s hard feed slightly as I only need to worry about providing energy, not so much forage.
I’ve also just purchased a multi vitamin supplement, mainly for Llani. As he has so little hard feed I was concerned that he might have a slight imbalance of minerals or vitamins going into winter, so this powder can be added to his handful of chaff. The supplement also contains linseed, which I’ve been wanting to give Otis, so he will have some too.
With all this organised in my mind, I think I’m ready for winter!