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Maintaining Condition Over Winter

Winter is the most unpredictable season with huge variations in temperature – both daily and periodically – rainfall, wind etc., making it difficult to plan activity that is the keystone of good conformation and show condition. Additionally, daylength is limited and, as horses eat less, if anything, at night, maintaining nutrient intake may present a problem.

With many types of horse, a little loss of condition over winter is not such a problem as spring feeding will bring the animals back to peak; for the show horse, however, it is important to maintain condition at all times.

How best to achieve this? The most important factor is to feed to cover basic maintenance, but with the versatility to provide for variable levels of activity that is dictated by the weather. Even if stabled or rugged up, environmental temperature will drop and extra energy is needed to combat this. For every 1oC drop in temperature a horse requires 2 MJ extra – about ¼ kg of hay.

Obviously, the way to combat this is to provide extra feed, or at least extra energy. The problem is to supply it in a form that is sufficiently versatile to adapt rapidly to environmental changes and complement a feeding regime that supports the correct conformation achieved for the show animal. This is the realm of the super fibres.

Super fibres have been shown to ferment more rapidly in the hind gut of horses than that of forage. For example, beet pulp fibre has an effective degradability 50% greater than grass fibre and so can provide higher levels of slow release energy, and recent data has shown that Speedi-Beet can generate even more, due to its unique thermal processing.

Speedi-Beet has several benefits over hard feed, especially during winter.

• Feeding a hot mash helps reduce deep body heat loss in the gut
• Higher rates of fermentation generate more heat in the hindgut, supporting core temperature. As up to 80% of winter feed is used to maintain it, there is a physical benefit above the nutritional one.
• Slow release energy is metabolised constantly and is less likely to be diverted to fat storage; or supplemented by fat mobilisation. In essence, it helps to maintain energy stasis and so changes in condition and conformation are less likely.
• Fermentation patterns are similar to those of grass, supporting the same bacteria, so changes in amounts will not disrupt microbial populations.

Judicious use of Speedi-Beet means you can respond to whatever winter comes up with, without disrupting the show horse and keeping its conformation at its peak.