Bahiagrass is a grass that tolerates hot temperatures and can often be found in the Southeast of the US. It provides grazing and hay for horses. Dr. Worth explains why it can be useful and the nutritional value.
Hay is the principle source of fiber in domestic animals, and provision should be made to obtain sufficient hay for them, as hay is a far better feed in very cold temps than any kind of concentrate feed, as well being far safer. This means that access to plenty of hay is very important to generate both the energy source and the warmth. Along with the hay, the horse needs a supply of liquid water. Cold icy water hurts their stomachs, so when the temps drop the horses drink less, this puts them at risk of dehydration and colic. Providing liquid water is probably the hardest part of caring for horses in the cold temps.
We are often asked if 'a scoop of oats' is appropriate for a particular horse. A scoop does not tell us how much you are feeding as volume varies by scoop size. Here Dr. Worth explains why feeding by weight is so important.
The great blanket debate: an equine nutritionist weighs in. If your horse has a good hair coat, shelter from the wind, and constant access to forage, there is no need to blanket. However, for thin or older horses, a blanket may be a good idea.
Horses that are underweight are a special challenge in the cold. They need hay and plenty of it, but they will need really good quality hay, probably second cut, or mixed with some legume hay. They will need the higher feed value of the better hay, as well as the benefits of the bacterial fermentation.
In cold weather the best thing to feed horses is fiber as much as they will eat. Good quality hay is the best answer. Horses digest the fiber in the Hindgut (cecum and colons), where there is a huge population of bacteria which ferment the fiber. They give off short chain fatty acids as a by product of fermentation, the horse can absorb these through the gut walls and use them as an energy source.
Dr. Worth discusses NSCs (non-structured carbohydrates), their effect on horses, what to look for when choosing a grain for your horse, and why some horses should limit their NSC intake, especially horses prone to laminitis or founder.