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Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud..


With weather in the UK being unseasonably mild this January, the forecast has been fairly unforgiving with the amount of rain we have been receiving. Paddocks that were holding up quite well given the plentiful supply of grass have now become poached and underwater, providing a whole new set of challenges for our horses.

Max Winter


As mud starts to lead to less than favorable paddock conditions, restricted turn out or a general lack of forage in the form of grass will of course impact on your horse’s daily fibre intake. Lack of grass will mean that a greater emphasis may therefore of course be placed upon supplementary fibre, typically in the form of hay or haylage. It is important to never allow your horses forage intake to fall beneath 1.5% of their body weight per day in order to reduce the risk of digestive issues, and so monitoring exactly how much your horse is eating per day is key. For owners of fussy feeders, those with limited appetites or horses with poor dentition, ensuring required levels of fibre is maintained throughout the winter months can be a challenge.

Horses are natural browsers and in wild situations have been observed to eat lots of different types of forage on a daily basis. This is limited in domestication to one or two forage sources at most. Due to this natural behaviour being restricted horses exhibit ‘sensory-specific satiety’ where they become ‘fed up’ by one forage type but are still motivated to consume others. If we try to mimic a more natural approach to feeding forage, by offering horses a variety of fibre sources, horses will move from one source to another, mimicking their natural “browsing” behaviours. This has shown to stimulate appetite and consequently increase long-stem fibre intake.


Restricted turn out or time spent huddled around hay in the field can all lead to reduced gut motility. Taking your horse for picks of grass around the yard and placing hay or fibre buckets in multiple places around the stable or field can all help to encourage more movement. For some horses who may ‘back off,’ of their forage during prolonged periods of stabling, this can also help to stimulate appetite. Riding in the dark and gloomy nights of winter can require a lot of motivation, but exercise doesn’t have to be ridden work. Loose-schooling, lunging, long-reining, in-hand or ride & lead are other possibilities to get your horse out for an extra leg stretch, so there are lots of different options to get any horse or pony moving again.

Feeding a Balanced diet for optimum skin condition

With wet and muddy fields comes an increased risk of skin conditions such as mud fever. Whilst nutrition alone will not prevent the condition from occurring, a healthy skin and coat will go a long way to supporting a healthy skin and coat barrier. The most effective way to support this is to ensure you are feeding a balanced ration. A balanced diet of the vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids, will all help to support your horse’s skin and coat condition. Checking the recommended feeding guides of your chosen feed will ensure that all of your horses nutrient requirements are being met. If weight gain is an issue and feeding the recommended intake of a traditional mix or cube is not possible, topping up the ration with a balancer may then be required. Feeds that use chelated minerals are more bio-available, and bio-available vitamins and minerals are included which are more easily absorbed than traditional inorganic minerals as they are bound to a protein molecule that is more easily absorbed during digestion. These minerals can complement natural stress resistance and help the immune system, whilst improving coat bloom, and skin and hoof quality.

It has also been shown that diets high in omega 3 fatty acids can help to increase the elasticity of the skin cells which is of great benefit for horses that are suffering from dry and cracked skin. As well as supporting a healthy skin and coat condition generally speaking, the anti-inflammatory properties can also assist during the healing process of dermatitis. KER's EO.3 is a more readily available source of omega-3’s to the horse than linseed or vegetable oil is and is therefore more effective. The form of omega 3 oil that is in vegetable oil has to be converted in the horse's body into the form that can be used. The omega 3 oil that is in fish oil is already in the form the horse can use so does not need to be converted, making it more bio-available.

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Dehydration is a problem more frequently seen in winter than in the summer months. Water troughs are prone to increased ‘traffic,’ from horses visiting for a drink, and the area around them can quickly become the most poached part of the field. For horses who might be reluctant to wading through the mud to get to their trough, monitoring their water intake and keeping access to water as easy as possible is advisable. If restricted turn out is required, the change from a 'wet' grass to a 'dry,' forage can also increase the risk of digestive issues, such as impaction colic. Soaked fibre feeds such as the Re-Covery Mash can be an excellent way of topping up both fibre and water intake.

Re-Covery Mash is highly palatable, versatile and convenient to use in many different situations. It contains a blend of ’Super-Fibres’, known for their superior digestibility and provision of non-heating calories helping to keep weight and condition on over the winter months. A source of electrolytes helps to helps to maintain optimum hydration and thirst response, something which is especially useful during cold spells when horses tend to drink less water, increasing the risk of impaction colic. The further support digestive health Re-Covery Mash also includes a live yeast to support gut flora and stabilise the pH of the gut. Re-Covery Mash also includes an elevated level of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the horse from free radical damage. Free radicals can cause damage to cells and it is the job of anti-oxidants to 'mop up' free radicals to stop this damage from occurring. The best source of vitamin E for the horse is fresh, green grass so over the winter months it is important to provide an additional source of vitamin E when grass is scarce.