Transitioning to Fall: A Feeding Check List

With fall just starting, daily activity of horse owners may change which may translate to daily changes with our horses. Kids are back in school (virtual or classroom), less horse shows/clinics, back to work routine, and daylight is getting shorter are just a few of the influences.

Here’s a check list of items to consider with your horse’s fall feeding management:

  1. What is the current BCS (body condition score)? Any change?
  2. If the horse is slightly heavier than ideal, does the temperature in your area become significantly colder? If so, a BCS ½ -1 point higher than a BCS-5 may be beneficial for the upcoming winter.
  3. Has the level of activity been reduced? If yes, then…
    1. If feeding a commercial formula, reduce ¼ – ½ lb. per day to a level that will maintain ideal body weight.
    2. If feeding a fat supplement, rice bran or oil, specifically for added energy then consider reducing the fat source to lessen caloric intake.
  4. How much hay is being fed per day?
    1. Hay feeding base recommendation for active horses is 1.5 – 1.7% of body weight.
    2. If expecting colder climate, consider increasing daily hay. Grass hay is preferred. Long-stem (bale) forage promotes the gut to move with consistency which generates more internal body heat for warmth. This also encourages the horse to drink more water which is important for hydration, since during colder temperatures, horses drink less water.
    3. Meal feeding hay may lead to “empty gut” syndrome. Consider feeding hay more frequently, minimum 3-times per day, or provide hay via a slow hay feeder. Another option to reduce the hay net openings is to double or triple the hay nets. Be sure hay nets are not at a level for a horse’s leg(s) to be tangled.
  5. Feeding hay pellets during the show/summer season?
    1. Consider transitioning from hay pellets to bale (long-stem) hay.
    2. For same reasons above, horses drink less water with hay pellets compared to long-stem hay and long-stem hay promotes more gut movement.
  6. Want to feed a balanced formula during the off season of fall and winter?
    1. Depending on winter temperatures, adjusting the diet may be needed to maintain body weight.
    2. Consider Integrity Lite, balanced to complement the forage portion of the diet and contains no grains. The first two ingredients are beet pulp and soy hulls. These soluble fiber sources have an affinity for water and contribute to encourage the gut contraction; gut movement generates internal body heat and promotes gut health.