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Feeding Principles - how to work out how much feed your horse needs

Feeding principles. You can bet your bottom dollar that there is going to be something difficult to understand, or confusing, when it comes to feeding horses and ponies. Unless of course you have a qualification in equine nutrition - which most of us haven’t. Let me put in a caveat before we start. When you read through this article you may get the impression that you can calculate really accurately the requirements for your horse. The fact is, like us, individual horse’s requirements are different. Two horses, the same size in the same level of work may have slightly different requirements, so the calculations are a guide. Use your eyes and tools like a weigh tape to keep track of how your horse is getting on. Finally, bear in mind that the analysis of feeds is based on the average composition of its constituent parts, and they can vary quite significantly from the declared values. Add that to the big variations in forage quality and you can see why I ...

Monday 2nd Feb 2015

Mud Fever

Mud Fever - This can be a difficult problem to resolve which is really persistent, scabs can stay infectious for up to 3½ years… The current thinking is that it is the constant wetting and chilling of the legs which is predisposing your horse to infection. Our Tips are:- · Give your horse a hand from the inside by feeding supplements high in zinc & anti-oxidants or specifically formulated for mud fever before you have a problem. · Use barrier creams to protect the sensitive areas, preferably products that allow the skin to breathe. · Don’t use high pressure water to hose off your horses legs. If you do wash legs off, dry them thoroughly. · Use legwraps [like thermatex] that wick away moisture, apply them directly on the muddy legs without washing. They warm the legs and remove the moisture. Carefully brush off the dry mud in the morning · Control Feather Mite because they wea...

Thursday 16th Oct 2014


Bad weather usually means quick changes to the way we manage our horses, going from grazing 24/7 to stabled, at least at night. It also heralds a seasonal rise in colic cases, but why? This month's topic is Colic, is it really that important? If you’ve had a horse with even mild colic it can be extremely upsetting, never mind the worry [and expense] of a more serious case. So for the average owner and definitely for the horse, it probably is. Colic affects about 5 horses in every 100 each year and they vary in seriousness. Some will resolve with no treatment, the majority are sorted with simple treatments and some will require surgery and for some, it is fatal.   There are a few risk factors, some we are familiar with and others that may be a bit more of a surprise. Let’s start with the obvious, cereals. As you can see from the graph below, the more you feed the higher the risk. The horse's small intestine has a very limited capacity to digest starc...

Thursday 16th Oct 2014

How to choose the correct riding hat

Buying your riding hat or body protector online may save you a little money, but will it save your life? How do you choose the correct Riding Hat standard that is going to suit you? There are a number of hat standards available, but in our, the hat manufacturer's and BETA's view, one of the most important aspects of riding hat safety is how well your hat fits. It is obvious if you think about it; if the hat is too big and slips, it is not going to give you adequate protection, if it is too small and the straps are incorrectly adjusted it could even ‘pop’ off on impact. The most common problem we come across is hats that are too big. This is exaggerated as the hat ‘wears in’ and gets looser, a reputable shop should refit your hat for free after you have worn it for a while, making any adjustments to keep you safe and comfortable. You do not get this service online. Your life may depend on yo...

Saturday 18th Oct 2014

Worms who needs them?

Worms - who needs them? If you are about to have a meal, there are a few pictures a bit further down the page which may not enhance its flavour... I've been thinking about how often people worm their horses and there seems to be 3 different strategies used by most horse owners. The first is following a worming program exactly as it is laid out by your vet, us, or perhaps the internet. Usually using a combination of wormers and egg counting, dependant on risk, number of animals etc. The second is having no plan and giving the occasional wormer if the horse looks a little 'wormy', or has some other physical signs like struggling to maintain weight. The third is somewhere between the 2 with no specific plan, but worming a little more regularly, certainly before they show any clinical signs. Advice is changing all the time and now has probably matured into the most sensible approach with current knowledge. What...

Thursday 6th Nov 2014

Controlling gastric ulcers in horses

Following a very interesting day at Liphook Equestrian Hospital to improve our understanding of Gastric Ulcers and Colic. With video, a dissection and a live gastroscopy, Professor Andy Durham’s presentation made the day engaging, informative and importantly gave us some great guidance that we can pass on to you. I guess the first thing to do is start with some signs that your horse may have gastric ulcers. Because they tend to cause relatively low grade pain the signs are often vague:- Poor performance Mild weight loss Picky appetite Starey Coat Sensitivity to girthing Grumpy Colic? Windsucking? There is a whole host of things we do to horses which don’t fit with their 55 million years of evolution. For example feeding meals when they are designed as trickle feeders. Let me give you the example we were given – would you feed your horse like this? Day 1         Hay Day 2     &...

Tuesday 11th Nov 2014

Understanding Sugar in Grass

Understanding Sugar in Grass. Grazing is natural, cheap and most of our horses do pretty well on it. Of course there is a 'but', which is sugar, in particular Fructans. Essentially grass has 3 sugars, glucose, fructose as well as fructans which are formed when several fructose molecules bond together. Unlike glucose and fructose, the fructans aren't digested in the stomach and small intestine, passing into the hindgut causing the starch/sugar bacteria to go into overdrive producing lactic acid. Lowering the pH, causing the friendly fibre digesting bacteria to die, releasing toxins as well as inducing an inflammatory reaction which predisposes your horse to colic and laminitis. Fructans levels vary with the time of year, within the plant itself and also the time of day. When the grass is growing rapidly in the spring and autumn flushes, especially when it is sunny during the day and cold at night the grass stores the sugar instead of using it for ...

Monday 6th Jul 2015

Substitution - How to Save Money by Spending More when You Want to Put Weight on your Horse

When you are feeding your horse to appetite, introducing a new feed or more feed, leads to your horse eating less of something else, usually forage. This means that to make progress in gaining weight, what you are introducing into their diet needs to be significantly more nutrient dense than the feed it is replacing [called substitution].  There are some important things to bear in mind here, firstly we are only considering calories in this video, not protein nor minerals & vitamins and secondly there is a thing called passage rate to consider which can affect intake - more fibre tends to mean a slower passage rate, which in turn can reduce intake. That aside, if your hay is 8.5mj/kg DE and you feed a basic cool cube that is also 8.5mj/kg DE your horse is not going to gain any extra weight because you are replacing one feed with another which has the same nutrient density. So by spending a little more you can make progress and usually save money into the bargain. In t...

Thursday 8th Sep 2016

Feeding the Competition Horse

Feeding the Competition Horse By Elizabeth Bush BSc (Hons) MSc (Dist) The competition season is upon us, a time when many horse owners consider feed changes to maximise performance. Many owners are overwhelmed by the vast number of feeds on offer but the task can be simplified. First and foremost consider the base of your horses’ ration. Is he turned out with access to good grazing or relying on conserved forage to meet fibre requirements? This will affect energy levels and condition. Secondly, accurately assess the amount of work your horse is doing. Is it light work i.e. quiet hacking for an hour or light schooling for 30 minutes a day or is it a moderate level of work i.e. ½ - 1 hour schooling or 1-2 hours hacking per day and regular local level competitions at weekends? Temperament and condition tend to be the main factors for consideration when feeding for competition. Hopefully your horse or pony will fit into one of the following categories! Feeding the &ls...

Wednesday 23rd Jul 2014

Feeding your Good Doer

Feeding the Good Doer Elizabeth Bush BSc (Hons) MSc (Dist), Hickstead Horse Feeds Good doers (typically natives and heavier breeds) can be the trickiest type to feed as they really do thrive on very little! Obesity is detrimental to health and excess weight on a horse or pony will put extra strain on its organs and limbs as well as increasing the risk of problems such as laminitis. As with humans, horses become overweight when they store excess energy as fat. So if you are looking for your horse to shift a few unwanted pounds then their energy expenditure obviously needs to exceed their intake. If their weight is under control, but you know they have a tendency to gain weight come spring, then energy expenditure needs to match intake! Truly effective weight management integrates both regular exercise and careful feeding!   Restriction rather than starvation! Fortunately, the majority of horse owners are now aware of the risk of removing all sources of energy from th...

Wednesday 3rd Dec 2014

Feeding when your horse is at grass

Feeding when Your Horse is at Grass Elizabeth Bush BSc (Hons) MSc (Dist) Summer’s here, the days are longer, the weather better and the grass is greener and more plentiful. Many horses and ponies enjoy 24 hour turnout at this time of year. As they make the most of the long awaited grass, more often than not we can see their waistlines expanding and consequently one of the biggest changes to their routine can be the reduction or altogether removal of concentrate feed. But should hard feed be so casually eliminated from the summer ration? Good quality grass as found in spring and early summer will undoubtedly provide our horses with an excellent basis to their daily ration. However, pasture quality varies across the UK depending on location/ soil type and climate, amongst other things. Good quality pasture should be evenly grazed, with a good mixture of palatable grasses (e.g. perennial ryegrass, creeping red fescue, meadow fescue, stalked meadow grass, timothy etc) and fr...

Thursday 21st Aug 2014

Feeding Your Horse in Winter

Winter Feeding By Elizabeth Bush BSc (Hons) MSc (Dist) Be prepared With winter feeding, as with many things, preparation is the key to success. If you know that your horse has a tendency to drop weight and condition over winter then act sooner rather than later. It is far easier to achieve weight gain during the milder months of late autumn than to be battling against significantly colder winter temperatures. Rugging up or stabling a little earlier than usual and providing plenty of forage as well as a change to the type or quantity of hard feed offered can all be of benefit. In contrast if the waistline of your equine companion appears to have expanded over recent months then the cooler months of autumn and the reduced availability of grass can be a most welcome opportunity for shifting unwanted pounds! The importance of fibre, fibre and more fibre! One of the biggest changes that we all notice during autumn and winter is the drop in ambient temperature. Consequently ...

Thursday 21st Aug 2014

How do you choose a fly repellent or insectacide?

Part of the problem is how do you judge how effective the product is, what should you expect? The first observation to make is that it is unlikely that any product is going to give your horse a completely fly free life, it is a question of degree and what you and your horse are happy with. If your horse is sharing a field with others that have more effective product on them, or are naturally bothered by fewer flies, then unfortunately your horse is likely to bear the brunt. If you are near other livestock, streams, woods etc. then you are likely to get more problems for obvious reasons. The second observation I would make after watching Tracy and others applying fly spray [the repellent sort] is that often you don’t generally apply enough product to be effective, so are you making the most of the product? Part of the frustration here is, some of the repellent type products don’t even give you a guide to how much you should be using, but where they do, you definitely get the...

Thursday 16th Oct 2014

Jeffries Saddle Care and Maintenace

Kitting out your horse or pony with tack and clothing can easily cost as much as the animal itself with the saddle being the main investment. Naturally most owners want to look after their equipment to ensure it is comfortable for the horse and to get the best out of it so it lasts for many years to come. Looking After Leather The correct care and maintenance of tack undoubtedly prolongs its life.  Regular checks on the stitching and condition of the leather are also essential for safety.  All tack should be sponged off and wiped over after it has been used and the bit washed, then dismantled once a week into component parts and cleaned thoroughly to keep it in good order. Daily Care  Saddles and bridles should be cleaned after use whilst they are still warm as the dirt is easier to remove. Begin by rubbing over the leather with a damp towelling cloth or sponge to remove any dirt, then work saddle soap into both sides of the leather, paying special...

Thursday 16th Oct 2014

Keeping your electric fence sparky

Aside from the obvious things, like making sure your fencer is turned on and the thing is ticking away nicely with its little light flashing brightly, here are a few tips to help keep your fence zapping away. If you have long distances - over 800m or so of tape/rope or a couple of lengths of sheep/poultry netting, check your fencer is up to the job. Not all of them are. Assuming it is, investing in better quality tape/rope for long distances gives you better performance [less resistance = more power transmitted]. Is something sucking the power out of your fence? - weeds, hedges, posts or stock fence - anything that is not insulated from the ground takes power out of your fence. Joints/breaks in the tape/rope. It is so easy to just tie a knot to fix a break or join 2 bits together isn’t it? Joining or repairing with the correct connectors makes sure the current is transferred without losing power. Check your tape/rope for signs of wear and broken conductors, use your...

Thursday 16th Oct 2014

Controlling Rodents around your stables

Rats & Mice Here is some advice on how to deal with them. Rats and mice are an inevitable part of living in the country, and for that matter in town. Mild winters and good summers have given rise to good conditions for rodents to breed, and boy can they breed. A female rat can have 5 litters a year and with an average of 8 pups per litter which can, in ideal conditions, reach sexual maturity themselves in 6 weeks, you can see the potential for infestation to develop rapidly. Neither rats nor mice hibernate, consequently they have a nomadic and opportunistic approach to finding food. As the weather changes they move  in from the fields and begin invading properties attracted by smell of animals and their feed. It is important you act quickly, so as soon as you identify a problem, take action. It is much easier to deal with a small infestation than a plague, which is what you will get if they start breeding. Rats and mice can cause significant damage...

Wednesday 3rd Dec 2014

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