Horses are living longer and in many cases are outliving their teeth.
Loose, worn and missing teeth can all make chewing difficult and ultimately slow the horse down when eating fibrous material. Dental issues are not just confined to older horses though. The apparent increase in the number of horses of all ages with diastemas (abnormal gaps between teeth) means that many horse owners are seeking alternatives to long length forage. As forage should make up at least half of every horse’s diet, it is no surprise that when they simply can’t eat it as easily any more, weight loss and colic can occur. A study funded by Dengie showed that when high fibre materials were provided in a form the horse could manage, they were able to consume just as much as a horse with normal dentition.
The answer to this is it depends on what is in the bucket! If you are using a chopped fibre feed such as Alfa-A Oil then it is very voluminous and so a bucketful is probably about 1.5kgs (check this number!). The key thing is also that it is a high fibre feed and so can be thought of in the same way as forage – you wouldn’t be worried about feeding a bucketful of hay. High fibre feeds don’t overload the digestive system in the same way that cereal based feeds can and so it is perfectly acceptable to feed them in bigger quantities in one bucket. In fact, if your horse spends all night eating a big bucket of chopped fibre, it is a much more natural way to feed than giving a small meal of cereals. Horses would spend 16-18 hours a day grazing and the more we can replicate this in the stable the better.
With cereal based feeds, giving more than 1.5kgs in each feed is likely to reduce the efficiency with which the nutrients are absorbed and increases the risk of digestive upsets. It is far better to introduce a 4th feed than carry on with 3 large meals.
With temperatures forecast to be below zero and snow fall for areas of the country, ensuring your horse or pony is kept warm and going about your normal routine can be a challenge.
Providing fibre in a form that horses and ponies can manage to chew it ensures that they are still receiving all the vital nutrients to keep them healthy. Pelleted fibres that are fed soaked are particularly beneficial for veteran horses, aiding hydration in the performance horse and during winter months.
Dental issues aren’t just a problem for the older horse, they can also affect the ridden horse, from the riding club horse through to the performance horse.
There is concern regarding a potential forage shortage this winter. Many ran out of forage before the end of last winter and a dry summer has seen the early use of hay and haylage harvested this year. So if you find yourself short of hay and haylage this winter then what’s the alternative?
A guide to the Dengie products that can be used to replace or supplement your hay and haylage rations, limited turnout time or poor grazing