When it comes to finding the best hay to feed your horses, there are actually a select few choices for you to pick from. Generally speaking, however, hay will fall into one of two categories: legumes and grasses.
Legume hay has higher protein content, higher energy content and higher calcium levels than that of grass hay. Higher protein is especially important for young, growing horses and/or working or performance horses. With protein levels ranging anywhere from 15 to 21 percent in legume hay, horses are getting the nutrients they need to grow properly. However, it’s also important to understand that legume hay typically has more calories per pound than grass hay, so horses consuming these particular types will need to consume less to maintain their body weight.
Grass hay has its benefits, too. Lower in energy content and protein, grass hay is oftentimes preferred – especially for older horses as it is much easier on the kidneys and easier to chew and digest. Grass hay has high fiber content, which makes it a convenient solution to horse feeding as it satisfies their appetites without adding extra calories or protein. The lower nutritional values in grass hay is also a plus, not to mention, it’s less dusty than legume hay which makes it a smarter choice for horses that may have respiratory issues.
Every horse has different nutritional requirements. Age, activity level, breed and size all contribute to finding what hay is the best choice for your horse. Since there is no cut-and-dry answer to which hay is the ‘best’ generally speaking, it’s important to become familiar with your horse and your options to pinpoint the best choice specifically for you and your horse.
Winter is officially here, and with a change in the weather comes a change in horse care routines. While horses can live comfortably outside year-round, there are specific requirements that need to be met during the winter to ensure a happy, healthy and comfortable living environment for your horse. Here are some things to keep in mind when caring for your horses in the winter.
Watch for Ice
Oftentimes in the colder, icier months of the year, chunks of ice will accumulate in a horse’s hooves. When the ice builds up, this causes stress on tendons, ligaments and muscles. That’s why it is imperative to monitor the ice buildup on your horse’s hooves during the winter as they will need to be removed soon after it appears.
But it’s not just the ice on your horse’s hooves you need to watch out for, it’s all ice in general. When areas in or around the barn get icy and slick, it can cause accidents and sometimes even injuries. When you notice it starting to get icy out, take precaution by sprinkling sand on or salt on the icy areas to prevent any slips.
Shelter & Blankets for Warmth
Ideally, three-sided constructed shelters provide the best ample protection for your horse from any wind, rain, snow, ice and precipitation. Trees also serve as a natural wind barrier, providing some protection as well. Stocking up on blankets during the colder months is also a necessary step to keeping your horse safe and warm.
Blanketing your horses during the winter months will keep horses warm that cannot naturally grow thicker winter coats on their own.
Hay Feeding in the Winter
Lastly, hay feeding plays a major role in winter horse care. On average, horses need to consume at least 2 percent of its body weight in forage (hay and/or pasture) to maintain its body condition. It is the digestion of fiber that will keep your horse warm. When in doubt, feeding your horse additional hay meals will ensure that they’re getting enough nutrients and fiber to keep warm.