During wet weather conditions many people reduce, or even prevent turnout entirely to help prevent excessive poaching and health problems such as mud fever. Although all horses should be exercised and have time spent out of the stable everyday this does mean that horses are confined to their stable for a greater period of time, so management and feeding regimes have to be adapted.
Horses have evolved as trickle feeders so it is important that the stabled horse has access to plenty of fibre. This will help satisfy the horse’s psychological need to chew and in doing so will also help keep the digestive system healthy.
There are many options available to you to help increase the fibre content of the horses diet when grass is limited including hay, haylage, chaffs and high fibre feeds like Forage ‘n’ Fibre that contains a blend of fibre sources. By using alternative forage sources this will help keep the horses mind active and encourage natural foraging behaviour. Keep in mind that older horses with poor dentition will struggle to chew and digest fibre from hay or haylage efficiently so in this case a forage replacer should be used. A soft textured mash such as ReadyFibre Mash is very palatable for older horses with missing teeth.
If the horses fibre intake is limited and the horse is without fibre for a significant period of time, the digestive system can be negatively affected which can lead to problems such as colic and gastric ulcers as well as having an impact on behaviour.
A major problem with stabled horses is boredom so if possible you should try to turn out daily or walk in hand.
Some horses are highly simulated by edible toys which can be hung around the stable or even a stable toy filled with treats such as Grass Nuts can keep a horse entertained for hours. Using a stable mirror adds extra light to the stable and gives the horse something to look at which can help alleviate winter-related boredom.
Although it is more natural for a horse to be fed from the floor, if your horse tends to eat too fast then a hay net can be a good way to slow a horse down, and can keep them entertained for longer.
The horses diet may have to be adjusted if he is stabled during wet weather conditions.
If you find that your horse is suddenly confined to the stable the hard feed should be reduced and can be topped up with a balancer or a vitamin and mineral supplement such as Vitem. This will help ensure your horse is kept on a fully balanced diet with adequate amounts of nutrients to help support overall health and vitality.
For horses that are prone to weight loss oils or fat supplemented diets are an excellent way of providing the horse with the additional calories required for improving and maintaining condition and a high oil feed such as Show ‘n’ Glow can be fed. If a lower starch alternative is required for horses that can get stressed when stable for long periods of time or those that are prone to gastric ulcers and tying up Solution Mash is cereal free alternative and helps to provide an excellent source of non-heating calories.
Where possible daily turnout is recommended for the horses health, however where this is not always an option it is good practise for the horse to spend time out of the stable even if it is just to be walked in hand.