7 Reasons to Feed More Hay in Winter Months

Forage, specifically long-stem hay, is very important to your horse during colder temperatures. For a horse to maintain body warmth during the winter, the answer is simple, feed grass hay and if you are currently feeding grass hay, feed more.

Here’s why:

  1. Long-stem hay (aka baled hay), requires the gut to contract with more vigor to move the food source through the gut.
  2. The contraction of the gut expends energy and there is an energy cost for that work. Energy is important with regulating body temperature during the cold temperatures. This energy is referenced as “heat of digestion” or “heat increment”.
  3. Long-stem hay also requires the horse to drink more water when compared to a hay pellet or cube.
  4. Yes, grain and oils have more calories per pound, but they do NOT require the same effort to move and process and to produce the same level of “heat” (energy) of digestion as with forage.
  5. A great added benefit of long-stem hay is that fiber from forage is critical for a healthy microbiome, thus a healthy gut.
  6. Feeds containing high levels of soluble fiber, beet pulp and soy hulls, also require the gut to contract with more vigor and drink more water. Feeds such as Integrity Lite and Integrity Adult/Senior list the first two ingredients as beet pulp and soybean hulls, thus containing a significant amount in the formulation.
  7. Horses drink less water when the water temperature is cold. Water in below ground piping averages 55°F but during winter months that temperature can drop to 45°F. Drinking water temperature should be at least 55°F so that horses will remain encouraged to drink it along with their increased hay intake.