Consider Your Horse's Diet at a Time of Reduced Work Due to COVID-19

Spring is usually the time of year that we are starting to getting our horses in shape and ready for competition. However, coronavirus-19 has different plans for our spring. With a cancellation of almost all equine events, you may not have your horse in as intensive of training. I am fortunate enough to have my horses at my own property, and therefore don't plan to change their exercise levels. Especially with a bunch of young horses, it looks like it is going to be a good year for getting them further along and ready for competition for when events start opening back up. However, other people that board their horses may be faced with the reality of not being able to visit and/or exercise their horses or get their feed rations ready for their horses. Many barns are limiting border access and only allowing vital employees on-site to care for horses as a safety for you, their staff, and themselves. With these changes, you need to consider different things to ensure the health of your horse.

If you Have an Easy Keeper

The inability to exercise an easy keeper can lead to weight gain. By adjusting your horse's diet, you can help reduce the chance of them becoming too heavy with no exercise. Reducing the amount of concentrate, which is more calorie-dense than forages, will help prevent weight gain. Feeding a vitamin-mineral supplement, such as Horse Guard or Trifecta, will ensure that your horse's vitamin and mineral needs are being met without providing extra calories.

If you Have a Hard Keeper

If you have a hard keeper, this is a great time to work on putting weight on them. Consider choosing concentrates that are high in fat and protein. Fats have shown to help keep horses calmer than carbohydrates. This is especially important if your horse is confined to a stall. Fat also provides 2.5 times more calories than carbohydrates. Super Weight Gain, Flow, and Glow are great options to help put weight on your horse.

Helping with Stall Boredom

If your horse is confined to a stall and not receiving exercise on a regular basis, it is a good idea to provide them with something to curb their boredom, which will help them from becoming destructive and reducing the chances of them developing bad habits. Jolly balls work well for some horses. Tying up milk jugs with a few rocks in them can also provide cheap entertainment.

Helping Out the Barn Staff

This is a stressful time for everyone. If you board your horse at a facility that has closed to its boarders, think about how especially stressful it is for the barn manager and staff. If you board at a barn where you usually put out your horse's feed, and you aren't able to pre-measure out your feed, for the time being, leave very clear directions for the feeders. Make sure to label all your scoops with your horse's name, which feeds and supplements that the certain scoops measure, and a line to where they are supposed to be filled. This will help reduce the stress on the people that not likely isn‰Ûªt use to measuring feed and make it safer for your horse as well.

Better to Have it and Not Need It

The old saying, "better have it and not need it, than need it and not have it" can ring especially true in times of crisis. Ensuring your horse has enough feed to get them through these closures is important, but if you board your horse at a facility, it is vital to think about anything else your horse might need even though you are unable to reach him. This includes any and all medications and basic first aid. Most boarders already keep these items stocked, and others rely on the barn manager or head trainer to supply these items in times of emergency. If you rely on the facility for certain first aid supplies, chances are other boarders do too, which can lead to a higher demand on those items and more stress on the people whom you are relying on to care for your horse. If you can to put together a small essential kit consisting of vet wrap, non-stick gauze, a disinfectant, any medications your horse has needed before (Bute, Equioxx, Allergy Meds (think spring), Banamine, etc.) you can have some peace of mind knowing that if anything were to happen your horse can be taken care of. While we are all hoping for clear weather if you blanket your horse make sure all blankets are available. If you are in a boarding situation where a trainer or staff member is still able to exercise your horse make sure any and all your horse's tack and equipment is accessible.

Be Prepared and Be Patient

Horse guard horse prevents stall boredom It is important to consider all aspects of owning and boarding your horse. In these stressful times, it is important that everyone helps to make it as easy as possible to care for your horse. By considering their current diet they are on and their needs during this time, this will help ensure that your horse is in good body condition when you get back to them. By helping the barn staff out by providing ample amounts of feed and medical supplies, as well as tack and equipment if they are remaining in training this will help to reduce the stress of the whole barn. Reducing the stress level in the barn will help to ensure the health and happiness of your horse.
Dr. Kelsey J. Nonella Ph.D., P.A.S.

Dr. Kelsey J. Nonella Ph.D., P.A.S.

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