Jan 15, 2019

Feeding Horses in Cold Temperatures

By Dr. Stephen Duren - Standlee Premium Western Forage , Dr. Tania Cubitt
Photo courtesy of Standlee.

This educational article is brought to you by Standlee Hay Company, the Official Forage of the USEA.

Several environmental conditions affect horses in the winter:

  • Horses decrease feed intake in cold AND windy weather – seek shelter.
  • Snow accumulation greater than seven inches covers grass and decreases intake of pasture - decreases grazing time (24%) and decreases intake (22%).
  • Pawing through deep snow to get grass greatly increases the energy requirement of the horse.
  • In cold, windy conditions, horses lose more body heat and burn more energy to stay warm.

The “Lower Critical Temperature (LCT)” is the temperature below which metabolic heat production must be increased to maintain body temperature.

  • Mature Horses (LCT) = 5 to 41º F
    • Thin coat 41º F
    • Thick coat 5º F
  • Young Horses (LCT) = 12 to 32º F

For each decrease in coldness of one degree Fahrenheit below the critical temperature, there is an increase in digestible energy requirements for body temperature maintenance.

An average 1000-pound horse requires 15Mcal per day for maintenance under normal conditions, the following tables outline the additional digestible energy and hay intakes under inclement winter weather conditions.

Fiber should, in most cases, be the first ingredient to increase in your horses’ diet when trying to keep them warm. This is because the microbes in the hindgut produce heat as a by-product of breaking down fiber.

Estimated Feed Energy Increase at Different Magnitudes of Cold below the Lower Critical Temperature of Mature Horses

Difference in F Below Critical Temperature

Digestible Energy Increase (Mcals/day)

Average Feed Intake Increase (lb/day)*

0

0

0

10

2

2

20

4

4

30

6

6

40

8

8

*Assuming an energy density of 1.0 Mcal/pounds, which is typical of good, quality hay.

When wind and rain are added to the environmental conditions, the digestible energy requirement increases even further.

Effect of Wind and Rain on Digestible Energy Requirement for a 1000-pound Horse at Maintenance

Average temperature

Additional Mcal/day

Additional Hay

32 Degrees F

10-15 mph wind

4-8 Mcal/day

4-8 pounds of hay

32 Degrees F

rain

6 Mcal/day

6 pounds of hay

32 Degrees F

rain and wind

10-14 Mcal/day*

10-14 pounds/day

*May not be able to consume enough hay to meet requirements.

The tables above assume a 1000-pound horse eating at least one and a half percent of its body weight in hay to maintain body condition and health (at least 15 pounds of hay). The additional feed/hay intake is on top of the original 15 pounds plus of hay. A horse in freezing temperatures, also enduring rain and wind, would require 25 to 30 pounds of hay intake per day. This may be an unfeasible amount to supply to your horse or they may not be able to consume this much (older horses or pregnant mares). It should also be noted that most local grass hays are lower in digestible energy with values closer to 0.7-0.8 Mcal/lb, which further increases the quantity needed to maintain body condition in wintery conditions.

Standlee Premium Western Forage® provides a variety of high-quality forage products to help maintain body condition in winter conditions. Check out some great forage options to keep your horse supplied with a balanced diet at standleeforage.com.

Oct 24, 2021 Competitions

Sweden's Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis Pulls Ahead After Cross-Country in The Event at TerraNova CCI4*-S

Florida-based Swedish rider Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis galloped around clear and fastest of the day on Saturday to take the lead in the inaugural CCI4*-S, sponsored by B&D Builders, at The Event at TerraNova. Jarnstrom-Dennis and her Hanoverian mare Flower Girl (Futurist x Lucy) were fourth after dressage on 30.8. Not a single horse-and-rider combination made the optimum time; she added 10.8 time penalties to lead on 41.6.

Oct 24, 2021 Intercollegiate

USEA Collegiate Member: Cosby Green, Four-Star Competitor and Full-Time Student

Fresh off a top 15 finish in the CCI3*-L at the Maryland 5 Star, Cosby Green is back in Lexington attending class at the University of Kentucky (UK). The 21-year-old is an undergraduate student, a team member and the social chair of the UK eventing team, has two upper-level event horses, Copper Beach and Highly Suspicious, and a young horse, McCreary, who she rode on the winning team of the 2021 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships.

Oct 23, 2021 Young Event Horse

U.S. Riders Move Up the Leaderboard in 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championships at Mondial du Lion

Course designer Pierre Michelet's cross-country courses for the 2021 FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Mondial du Lion were extravagant as always and put young horses to the ultimate test in the 6- and 7-year-old Championships. The 2021 Holekamp/Turner Grant and The Dutta Corp. Prize recipients Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission to Land (Cobra x Deeply Dippy K) move forward after the final phase sitting in 30th overnight on a score of 55.8.

Oct 23, 2021

Sara Kozumplik-Murphy Takes the CCI4*S Lead at TerraNova After Dressage

The inaugural Event at TerraNova kicked off with dressage on Friday at Terranova Equestrian in Myakka City, Florida. In the CCI4*-S the first rider down the centerline Leslie Law (GBR) took the early lead riding the Irish Sport Horse Typically Fernhill (Dondoctro Ryal K x Castlefield Sarah), owned by Craig McCallum, on 27.2. He maintained the lead through the lunch break and then Sara Kozumplik Murphy and her syndicated Selle Francais gelding Rubens d’Ysieux (Balougran x Orenda d/Ysieux / Mr. Blue) took the top spot with 26.1.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Horse Clothing of the USEA