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Summer feeding and management

The settled weather of summer means that for most horse owners it is their busiest time, with the daylight hours giving more time for riding and most equestrian disciplines having full event calendars. While New Zealand summer temperatures are milder than in some parts of the world, they can reach significant heights in some areas and there are important feeding and management factors to consider to keep horses healthy and comfortable in the heat.

Fibre is the most important part of the horse’s diet and inadequate amounts of forage consumed daily can increase the risk of digestive problems. Lack of fibre ingested often means that energy requirements are not being met which could result in weight loss. In areas where heat and lack of rain has caused pastures to dry off over summer, horses will need supplementary forage through hay or baleage, chaff or fibre sources such as soy hulls and beet pulp. As forage alone does not meet the requirements for many essential nutrients, using a balanced NRM or McMillan feed at the correct level is a great way to complement forage and provide a balanced overall diet.

Constant access to fresh, clean water is essential as some horse’s water intake will increase up to 100L per day, especially if they are working and sweating consistently. Giving access to a salt block in the paddock is a great way to ensure the sodium and chloride that is lost in sweat is replaced and a balanced electrolyte that also contains potassium and magnesium will be required for working horses.

Providing shelter from the sun for at least some parts of the day through natural shelter belts or man-made shelters is very important, especially when horses are older or have pink skin that is at higher risk of sun damage. Some horses will require sunscreen or zinc on white or light-coloured muzzles to avoid painful burns.

Keep manure levels in paddocks low to avoid too many flies and use fly sheets or fly sprays when required as stamping at flies constantly uses a lot of energy and is hard on legs and hooves.

Hoof health is especially important in the dryer months, especially with horses working on harder ground. The nutrients needed for hoof growth — usually biotin, methionine and others — are often contained in a horse’s normal diet but adding a hoof supplement ensures that the horse has sufficient material to develop strong hoof tissue. Hooves grow slowly however and the outside of the hoof will not show the full effect of a hoof supplement for several months. For best results, use the supplement continuously in all seasons.

For further information, contact your Nutrition Specialist or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.

Article supplied by Luisa Wood, Equine Nutritionist.