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  • Q:

    I am not able to ride my horse during cold weather as often as I do in warmer months. How can I keep him from getting so hyper?

  • A:

    Keeping energy levels in check in wintry weather requires a few simple management changes. The first involves diet evaluation. Because the horse will be ridden less frequently, his workload will decrease, and there may be less demand for high-energy feeds such as concentrates in his diet. If the horse is an easy keeper, for instance, he may be fed a barebones diet of high-quality grass hay and an appropriate vitamin and mineral supplement. Coupled with whatever forage he can acquire during turnout, this may be sufficient to keep him in adequate body condition.


    If the horse cannot maintain his bodyweight on forage alone, he may be fed concentrates that contain high levels of fat. Calories derived from fat do not cause a horse to become difficult to handle, as is often the case with feeds rich in starch. A high-fat concentrate will have a crude fat value of 6% or more on the feed tag. Alternatively, a fat-rich supplement can be added to the ration to boost calorie intake. Heat-stabilized rice bran is a popular supplement, and as with high-fat feeds, will not cause a horse to become unmanageable. By adding rice bran to the ration, the amount of concentrate fed will likely decrease due to the caloric density of the supplemental fat source. Any change in diet should be performed slowly over several days.


    In addition to dietary adjustments, the horse should be allowed ample free exercise. If a horse is given sufficient time to kick up its heels daily—bucking, running, and playing—he will likely be more manageable. Turnout is also psychologically stimulating for horses, and those confined to stalls for extended periods of time often develop stable vices such as cribbing, wood chewing, and weaving. If a horse must be kept in a stall due to inclement weather or limited pasture availability, a rubber ball or one-gallon plastic jug suspended from the ceiling at about the height of the horse’s withers may alleviate boredom. Daily grooming and exercise, even if it is only hand-walking, may also relieve boredom in stall-bound horses.

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