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Summer Diet Check: Considerations



How is it already August!? Several characteristics of summer can influence your horse’s nutrition and requirements, so taking the time to check your horse's diet is a great idea this time of year!


CHECK: Pasture Availability


If you’re relying on pasture to meet your horse’s needs, how much pasture is available? How is it growing? Is supplemental hay required?


Remember, horses should be removed from the pasture when short-grasses are grazed to 1-2 inches, and tall-grasses are grazed to 3-4 inches.


Resting the pasture until growth has recovered can help maintain pasture quality, and will take 2-6 weeks depending on season, climate and health of the soil.


If you don’t rotate pastures, supplemental hay will be required once the initial pasture growth is grazed down.


CHECK: Workload Status


You will also want to consider energy requirements: is your horse’s workload continuing to increase?


For instance, your show horse is now in the middle of their show schedule, or may be gearing up for an upgrade at the end of the season.


If the workload is increasing, more nutrients will be required to support continual muscle development and energy expenditure.


CHECK: Body Condition


Body condition scoring can be a useful way to assess the suitability of energy content in the diet based on the score given:


  • Score 1-3: Energy deficit.

  • Score 4-6: Energy requirement.

  • Score 7-9: Energy excess.


If you have a horse at maintenance who is dropping weight despite having adequate forage availability and no change in workload, it’s important to account for bug stress. Reactions to bugs can increase energy expenditure and reduce time spent eating, as horses will instead seek shelter from bug nuisance. While the relationship between energy requirements related to thermoregulation in hot weather is not yet well understood in horses, it should not be ruled out.


CHECK: Hydration Management


Confirm that your horse’s hydration management is optimal by checking water availability and salt provision in the horse’s diet!


Water & feed intake are correlated, and hydration status is also imperative for normal gut function and thermoregulation.


Ensuring adequate water availability to support your horse’s requirements becomes extra important in the hot weather. Make certain that your horse is receiving sufficient salt in the diet, and some horses may also require supplemental electrolytes. Electrolytes can help encourage water intake as well!


Water Requirements

  • Maintenance: 4.2 - 11 L/100 kg BW

  • Lactating: 12.6-17.4 L/100 kg BW

  • Exercising: 7.2 - 18.4 L/100 kg BW


Summer is a great season for having the best time with your horse, and making sure that your horse is feeling their best can keep the summer fun rolling!


Need help to determine if your horse’s diet is suitable? Our basic nutrition services start at just $40 - check out the Services page or get in touch today for more info!


 

References


Jensen, RB., Rockhold, LL., Tauson, AH. 2019. Weight estimation and hormone concentrations related to body condition in Icelandic and Warmblood horses: a field study. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 61: 63.


Carroll, CL., Huntington, P. 1988. Body condition scoring and weight estimation of horses. Equine Veterinary Journal 20(1): 41-45.


NRC. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2007. https://doi.org/10.17226/11653.


McDonnell, S. 2022. Animal Behaviour for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff, 2nd Edition: Equine Care.


Kaneene, JB., Miller, RA., Ross, WA., Gallagher, K., Marteniuk, J., Rook, J. 1997. Risk factors for colic in the Michigan (USA) equine population. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 30(1997): 23-26.


Lindinger, MI. 2022. Oral Electrolyte and Water Supplementation in Horses. Vet Sci 9(11): 626.


Christensen, JW., Strom, CG., Nicova, K., de Gaillard, CL., Sandoe, P., Shovgard, H. 2022. Insect-repelling behaviour in horses in relation to insect prevalence and access to shelters. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 247 (2022): 105560.


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