EQUINE: Feeding during lockdown

16 Apr 2020


I do hope you are all keeping safe in this uncertain and worrying time?

I certainly didn’t predict the topic of this month’s column very well! These are strange times indeed which have greatly impacted on our equine way of life, in a way that would have been unimaginable previously. With no signs of competition or training clinics in the near future or even just a trailer ride for a hack in some different countryside, the management of our horses and ponies must change accordingly. I have had a lot of queries this last fortnight on this very topic.

It is really important at the moment to ensure that vitamins and minerals are topped up. All 21 Harbro Country Stores stock the leading balancers, as well as our own brand vits and mins, One Scoop. All of our stores can offer feeding advice if you have any concerns.

Some of us are lucky enough to have our horses at home but I am aware that many of you, that keep horses in livery yards, are now unable to go and see your horses or if you can, it is on a very limited time scale. This obviously means that your horse’s exercise has probably been reduced to turn out time only. I am also aware that there are many other people who do not wish to ride at this time and so their equine’s exercise has also reduced (sometimes dramatically).

I have had queries from customers asking if their horse should still be fed this product and that product, as it is bouncing off the walls. My question is usually, what would you do if your horse was suddenly injured or on box rest or on holiday? Remember one of the golden rules of feeding “feed according to work done” and if you apply that rule then the answer is very clear. Below are a few points to consider going forwards, through this situation we all find ourselves in:

  1. To my mind, no one should be trying to keep their horse hyper fit at this time, it really isn’t necessary and will only put unnecessary wear and tear on your horse. It also means that, should the unthinkable happen and we are absolutely banned from riding, then you are left with an interesting prospect.
  2. I truly believe that the majority of people are being sensible and therefore their horse is now in light work or no work at all. This means that unless your horse is either old and struggles to keep condition, is a youngster (less than 2 years old) or a mare in last trimester of pregnancy or lactating, there should be no need for anything other than “basic rations”.
  3. Basic rations –grass and hay/haylage, a mineral and vitamin supplement, like our One Scoop or appropriate balancer alongside a light chaff and salt. I have had a comment along the lines of “oh, tough love?” and quite frankly – yes.
  4. Tough love really is necessary, especially if you have a good doer. This reduction in exercise couldn’t have happened at a worse time as the spring flush of grass comes through. I have already heard reports of increased levels of colic due to sudden changes in management. Normally triggered by sudden 24/7 access to fresh spring grass. Please still try to make any changes gradually and laminitics and good doers should still be managed appropriately, with restricted access to grass, supplemented with low sugar or soaked hay.
  5. We should all be on alert for signs of laminitis and increased body condition score, even if our horses don’t normally have an issue with this. Do not underestimate the protective nature of exercise at keeping these things away. Act sooner, rather than later if your horse is starting to get fat. Reduce access to grass, supplement with forage and remember that in hand exercise will help if you can’t ride or don’t wish to.
  6. Be aware that if your horse is not in the same level of work as usual, his body shape may change as his muscle tone will decrease. There is no need to panic and start pumping food back in to them. Muscle will respond to appropriate exercise when we come out the other side of this. If you are able, in hand or ridden polework can help. Just something to bear in mind.
  7. We also mustn’t forget that we are now in that awful grass sickness danger period. Please supplement hay where you can, even if your horse has plenty of grass, as it has been shown to be a protective factor.

I know that some of the above points are probably things that some of you have never had to think about with your horse before and yet others will be all too familiar. Remember, tough love is oftentimes the best kind of care we can give to our horses. Keep yourselves and your horses safe through this period and if you are in any doubt, please contact your local Harbro Country Store where a member of the team will be able to help you with feeding advice. Remember, every horse is different and the above points are only a guide and not a list of commands. Take care.




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