Hay vs. Grain In Winter
Most people say to feed your horse more hay in the winter to help him stay warm.??Others say to increase grain to get enough extra calories to maintain his weight.??Both suggestions are correct. The trick is to incorporate them into your horse’s diet correctly.
When the horse eats hay, the heat that the bacterial fermentation takes to digest the fiber can help warm the horse from the inside out.?? Oddly enough, this is likely to make the most difference in a horse that gets little hay. There is less heat created from digestion with grain, but if your horse is burning fat calories to keep warm, and losing weight in the process — which can be difficult to note unless you’re diligent about regularly checking for how easily ribs are felt under the winter coat — grain is probably in order.
If you’re feeding mostly hay, you can expect to feed about 2% of the horse’s body weight/day in hay. Horses getting a good bit of grain or that need to lose weight should get about 1% of their weight/day in hay. This actually makes it easy to estimate how long a load of hay will last you. If you’re feeding 2% of the horse’s body weight, your horse will eat his own weight in hay in 50 days. At 1%, a load of hay equal to their body weight will last 100 days.
Organic Hay Warning
Many people who want to avoid chemical pesticides/herbicides in their horse’s hay try organically produced hay. However, these hays are often heavily fertilized with manure, which can lead to more nitrogen than the plants can utilize. Excess nitrogen in the soil may be stored in the plant in the form of nitrate, which is toxic. For as little as $10 to $15, you can have your hay tested for nitrate. It’s well worth the investment.
WNV Vaccine Status
The USDA has issued only another one year conditional, rather than full, license to Ft. Dodge for their WN vaccine. Challenge studies exposed a group of both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses to the virus. Vaccinated horses were better able to control appearance of virus in the blood but neither group developed encephalitis. Because of this, the vaccine’s ability to actually prevent disease remains unclear.
The Time To Go After Tapeworms Is Now
Everyone knows late fall/early winter is a good time to deworm for bots, but it’s a good time to get those tapeworms, too.
It’s often believed tapeworms are an increasing problem for horses because modern deworming drugs so effectively remove other parasites that might otherwise compete with the tapes. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, especially since tapeworms inhabit primarily the small intestine while the other common parasites are found in the large bowel. Either way, though, surveys indicate that at least 50% of horses may be infested with tapeworms.
If your horse has access to pasture during the year, odds are he has tapeworms. Tapeworms have intermediate hosts that are free-living mites called orabatids found in soil.
The mites feed on the tapeworm eggs or segments passed in an infected horse’s manure. The eggs hatch and the tapes mature to an infective stage inside the mite. The horse gets infected, or reinfected, by picking up the tiny mites when grazing.
If you typically only turn your horse out in the evenings and overnight in hot weather, the chance of tapeworm infestation is even higher. These mites avoid low-moisture conditions and only venture up blades of grass when they are moisture/dew-covered. As the sun begins to dry the grass, the mites retreat to moister conditions closer to the soil.
No dewormers are labeled for use against tapeworms in horses. Commonly available dewormers like fenbendazole (Panacur/Safeguard) are effective in other species but either aren’t effective in the horse or at least are not yet shown to be.
We think your best bet is deworming the horse with a double-dose of Strongid paste (pyrantel) yearly. High-risk horses should be retreated in six months. Discuss this option with your own veterinarian as well.