The Covid-19 situation has drastically changed the landscape for those with horses. From getting ready for the first show of the season to now facing uncertain and unprecedented times. As with everything in relation to Covid-19, adjustment is required and horses are no different. Here are some suggestions to help you and your horse adapt to life during this unusual period.
The competition season has been put on hold and it is impossible to know when it will resume so a reassessment of fitness requirements is needed. Immobility due to box rest is not good for digestive health or for the health of the lymphatic system. Moving around aids the removal of gas from the digestive tract and encourages bowel movement. Challenges will be unique to every horse and owner. Facilities will vary and that will present its own challenges for adjusting fitness regimes. For example, those with access to an arena may choose to give extra focus to schooling, on the flat or over jumps. However, those without an arena but access to hacking may choose to work on their horses’ fitness through hillwork to improve strength and balance. Individuals will be in the best position to assess their horse’s exercise regime to reflect these changing circumstances but change, no matter how big or small, is needed in these fluid times. Mobility is hugely important, whether it’s by exercise or turnout. Feed plenty of fibre to promote healthy, normal gut function.
Managing diet change is one of the most important adjustments to be made during this period. Adjusting the amount of concentrate feed is important as calorie intake will be impacted and needs to reflect the above point about fitness and exercise. A reduction in your horse’s workload will need to see a reduction in hard feed intake. Overfeeding can cause health issues as well as temperament problems. A change in regime affects each horse in a different way so be mindful of this when adjusting concentrate feed.
If you reduce a hard feed ration, consider using a balancer to ensure the vitamin and mineral requirements are still being met. High starch feeds such as cereal based cubes and mixes can cause a rise in blood glucose (high GI or glycaemic response) contributing to energy bursts and unwanted behaviour. Low starch feeds provided through fibre and oil sources such as beat pulp and alfalfa chaff provide a slower energy release without creating excitability. Forage provides at least half of the horse’s diet. It is important to feed plenty of fibre to promote healthy, normal gut function. Unless the horse is overweight, ad lib forage is ideal. Please remember to introduce dietary changes gradually, ideally over a period of 4-7 days to avoid causing digestive upset.
Maintaining a healthy digestive system is vital for every horse but it becomes even more challenging in these unusual times. Digestive health can be achieved through feeding plenty of forage to ensure movement through the gut. It is very important to maintain healthy gut microflora as it impacts on the horses’ ability to digest fibre and absorb vitamins and minerals. Dietary changes have a significant impact on the horse’s digestive system so striving to ensure a healthy gut is vital in these challenging times. Equine Gold is a probiotic containing a unique live yeast Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (CNCM I-1077) formulation designed specifically for horses. Equine Gold aids fibre digestion and vitamin and mineral absorption. Equine Gold also helps friendly bacteria to thrive whilst stabilising the digestive system, combating symptoms of stress.
Remember, this crisis will pass and normal service will resume. By following these few tips, you and your horse will be ready to perform once the first show comes around! For more information, please contact our expert team on 051 304010.