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    Winter and summer are the times of years that our older horses may struggle the most due to the extremes in temperatures. Winter in particular is when owners find their older horses may lose condition. As they tend to be thinner, with less muscle and fat than younger horses they have less insultation to keep them warm and must expend more energy to maintain their body temperature on those colder days and nights. If this is coupled with a decreased calorie intake due to a lack of pasture, they may be caught in a cycle of losing weight.

    Ideally it is best for older horses to come into winter with a body condition score of 5-6, with a good level of fat cover to help keep them warm. However, this may not stop them from dropping weight in the cooler months. 

    Feed plenty of forage

    Pasture tends to be lacking over winter, reducing your horse’s calorie intake so it is important to be providing them with enough forage to replace what they are no longer obtaining from pasture. Additional forage will provide them with the added calories that they require and what is not used for energy will be stored as fat which will help to insulate from the cold. A supply of forage, particularly over night will also help to keep them warm, as the fermentation process produces heat, so will act like an internal heater, elevating their body temperature.

    Forage intake may be difficult for older horses if their teeth are beginning to deteriorate, if they are still able to handle long-stem hay ensure you look for high quality hay with a high leaf to stem ratio that is softer and easier to chew. However, if they are unable to chew long stem forage, you can still increase their fibre intake with other fibre sources such as chaff, soaked hay cubes, soaked sugar beet pulp and other fibre-based pellets such as EasiFibre. Ensure regular dental check-ups so you can adjust their feeding ration if required.

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