How Much Haylage To Feed A Horse or Pony? These Baillie Haylage Feeding Guides are what we hope to be a comprehensive series of charts to guide how much haylage to feed.

Here you can find:

This is a 'guide', every horse is slightly different so if you have any further questions do not hesitate to get in touch with us and further more, seek advice from your vet.

For Horses/Ponies That Are Overweight Or At Rest

This applies to equines that may require to loose weight or who are not in work.

For Horses/Ponies In Light Work Or Maintenance

This applies to equines in light work and maintenance such as gentle hacking a couple of times a week and occasional schooling sessions, in addition to pregnant mares in their first half of pregnancy.

Baillie Haylage Feeding Guide for horses/ponies in light work or maintenance

For Horses/Ponies In Medium Work

This guide applies to equines in medium work such as daily hacking, schooling sessions and low level competitions.

Baillie Haylage Feeding Guide For Horses/Ponies in medium work

For Horses/Ponies In Heavy Work

This applies for equines in heavy work who have daily intense schooling sessions and regular showjumping/eventing/dressage/racing. This also applies to equines that are underweight, pregnant mares in second half of their pregnancy in addition to lactating mares and breeding stallions.

Guide for horses/ponies in heavy work

Sophie Wells OBE Dressage has recently joined the Baillie Haylage team - her list of achievements is endless, but multiple Gold medals in European and World Championships as well as Paralympics is certainly an impressive start! It goes without saying that Sophie's horsemanship is second to none so, a couple of weeks ago Baillie Haylage headed over to Sophie’s HQ and met up with her and the handsome Jorge.

Sophie very kindly gave Baillie Haylage some inside tips to help you prepare for the season ahead.

Create a weekly plan

Sophie said she likes to create a weekly plan of what she would like to achieve for the week. This needs to be a plan for both you and your horses for the week.


Break Your Weekly Plan Down, Step By Step

This means breaking each day into steps... for example:

What exercise you will do in the morning and for how long?

What time and how long will the farrier be? Can you do something like clean tack or ride another in that time?

Sophie says this makes the week seem manageable.


Short Sessions Can Still Be Productive

With a busy schedule like Sophie’s, fitting training/riding can be difficult. Sophie likes to work with her horses even when time is short, and this can be something as simple as 10-minute carrot stretching session or working on groundwork techniques. This benefits both you and the horse, building on your relationship and feeling more confident and happier together.


Planning For Competitions

Sophie said she likes to find the bigger competition that she would like to aim for and work backwards to what she would need to do to get to that competition. This gives her something to aim and focus for and helps with getting in the mind set to achieve those goals.

She will then plan for a smaller competition or even just getting the horses out to different venues to build up to this competition.

It's the time of year where we start thinking about bringing our horses in and stocking up on feed for the coming winter months. It can be difficult to know how much forage to feed in relation to hard feed so we asked our experts! Here is a basic guide on forage rations from Hannah Williams PGCE, MSc, BSc (Hons), BHS ISM, Equine Nutrition at Bishop Burton College.

The horse’s digestive system and forage

Forage is an essential part of the horse’s diet. The horse’s digestive system has evolved to have a continuous supply of forage passing through; hence them being termed ‘trickle feeders’. This constant supply of fibre maintains gut mobility and digestive efficiency. The most significant proportion of the horse’s diet should always be forage as the hindgut (the largest part of the digestive system) is designed to digest the fibre from forage by microbial fermentation in the cecum. When deciding on a forage-to-concentrate ratio for your horse, it is important to consider this.

How Do I Know What To Feed My Horse?

When deciding on a ration for horses, we should always start off with grazing (fresh forage). In most cases, if the horse has free access to good quality grass, this can meet their daily nutrient requirements. Grass is an essential source of the horse's energy, nutrients, and fibre. For example, a 500kg horse in light work needs 83MJ of energy per day. They need to eat 12kg of feed per day, with grass providing an average of 8MJ, meaning the horse consumes 96MJ, which meets and exceeds their energy requirements.

If grazing is insufficient, we can consider adding baled forage (such as haylage, especially through the winter months). If this still does not meet the horse's daily nutrient requirements, then giving the horse a concentrate feed and lastly, a balancer or supplement may be needed.

Forage To Concentrate Ratios

Developing a ration for our horses involves deciding on a forage to concentrate ration. Some authors write that a ratio of 30% forage to 70% concentrate can be fed to horses in very hard work. However, even though these ratios are sometimes fed in practice, this is not recommended as such small amounts of forage and large amounts of concentrates are not optimal for gut health and digestion in the horse. Concentrates should always be less than 50% of the diet, with the table below showing the ideal ratios.

Key Points To Consider

When feeding forage, here are some important points to consider:

  1. Choose the right type of forage: The most common forage for horses are hay and haylage. Hay can be further categorized into grass, legume, and mixed hay. Haylage can also be suitable as some types have a lower nutritional value (See ‘Our Range’). Each type of forage has different nutrient content and quality, so it is essential to choose the right type based on your horse's age, weight, and workload, among other factors.
  2. Determine your horse’s appetite: The general rule of thumb is to feed at least 2 to 2.5% of your horse's body weight in forage per day if they are in average condition. If they are underweight, this will increase to 3%; if they are overweight, this will decrease to 1.5% of their body weight, but you would never feed less than 1.5% of their body weight. For example, a 500kg horse would need at least 12kg of feed per day, then split into forage and concentrate if required.
  3. Feed multiple small meals: If you are limiting the amount of forage due to the horse being overweight, divide the ration into 3 or 4 portions a day to last longer.
  4. Provide access to clean water: Horses need access to clean, fresh water at all times.

References

Evans, P. and McKendrick, S., 2010. Equine Nutrition: Concentrates. Utah State University Extension.

Frape, D., 1998. Equine Nutrition and Feeding. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd.

Jansson, A. and Lindberg, J. E. , 2012. A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training. Animal Science, 12(6), pp. 1939-1946.

McDonald, P., 2009. Section 13: Horse Nutrtition and Feeding. In: Animal Nutrition Handbook. London: Pearson Education Limited, pp. 332-359.

Summer is here – apparently! Although the weather has not felt as warm and summery as some years, we still have more sunshine and lighter nights than the rest of the year. This causes changes to grass and consequently may see changes to feeding horses throughout summer. Here is some advice from the Equine Nutrition team at Bishop Burton College.

Forage Ration

The first thing to consider is if the summer grass meets your horse’s nutritional requirements. Consider what you are feeding them and what work they are doing. Even if their work increases slightly in the summer, it does not always mean extra feed is needed. You may need to reduce hard feed or remove it altogether.

Hay or haylage may need to be provided in the field if the grass is of poor quality or for mares supporting a foal, horses in hard work or during poor weather conditions. Native ponies turned out all summer will not need extra forage.

Do they require supplements?

If your horse's ration now only consists of forage, you may need to add a supplement to ensure their vitamin and mineral requirements are met. This is because UK soil can be deficient in certain minerals such as selenium (supports the immune system), zinc (needed for bone development, healthy hooves and coats) and copper (needed for bone and cartilage development). Ideally, a forage analysis of the grass should be carried out to determine which, if any, minerals are lacking.

Supplements can compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the horse’s forage-only diet. As supplements do not add calories to the diet, they are suitable for overweight horses and those who do not need the extra calories. They can be added to a small amount of low-calorie or straw chaff, or a salt/mineral lick can be used (Be cautious of the sugar content of some licks due to the molasses in them). Alternatively, a balancer can be used, but they do have a calorie value. They will also give added protein to the diet.

Obesity - neglect is not only underweight horses

Good digestible energy, protein and improved nutritional quality of the grass can result in your horse gaining extra weight. Sometimes this is needed as horses may come out of winter needing to gain summer condition (Winter BCS 2.5/5 to Summer BCS 3.5/5). This is the horse's natural weight gain and weight loss cycle due to the changing seasons and nutritional value of vegetation; however, most horse owners mistakenly keep their horses at the same weight all year round. This means coming into the spring/summer, the horse does not need to put weight on, as they are already at their summer weight. When they gain weight because of spring grass or their ration has not been altered for summer, this can lead to obesity. Research shows that over 70% of some equine populations are obese and that obesity has become so common it is now seen as the norm. Obesity is a common risk factor for Equine Metabolic Syndrome, insulin dysregulation and laminitis. It can also lead to infertility, orthopaedic disease, hyperlipaemia, hyperthermia and poor performance.

Key Points To Consider

Overweight - BCS 4/5.
A Body Condition Score of 4 or above is considered to be overweight.

References

Cuddeford, D., 2003. Equine Nutrition. Wiltshire: The Crowood Press Ltd..
Frape, D., 1998. Equine Nutrition and Feeding. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd.
McDonald, P. , 2009. Section 13: Horse Nutrtition and Feeding. In: Animal Nutrition Handbook. London: Pearson Education Limited, pp. 332-359.
O'Beirne-Ranelagh, E., 2005. Managing grass for horses: The responsible owners guide. London: Cambridge Publishing Ltd.
Rendle, D., McGregor Argo, C., Bowen, M., Carslake, H., German, A., Harris, P., Knowles, E., Menzies-Gow, N., Morgan, R., 2018. Equine obesity: current perspectives. UK-Vet Equine, 2(5), pp. 1-19.

Spring has arrived! As equestrians look forward to leaving the dark winter days behind, there are lots of horse management points to think about. The main one being the transition in feeding required for our horses. Equine Nutrition Lecturer, Hannah Williams from Bishop Burton College has given us some top tips on transitioning feeding routines as we go from Winter to Spring.

Natural Weight Cycles

As a horse comes out of winter, it is expected that they should be slightly ‘ribby’ as they will then regain weight during the spring and summer months. This is due to seasonal fluctuations in the nutritional value of the grass. This is the natural weight loss and weight gain cycle of the horse and owners often make the mistake of keeping their horse the same weight all year round.

Gradual Changes

The nutritional content of grass changes throughout the year which reminds us of one of the golden rules of feeding.

This must be remembered when changing the horse from a diet of predominantly hay/haylage over the winter to increased amounts of grass in the spring.

Be Aware Of Varying Nutritional Values

Horses spend 10-17 hours a day grazing, usually split into 15-20 grazing periods.

Horses can consume over 3% and ponies up to 5% of their body weight in 24 hours when grazing good-quality pasture.

Bear in mind that a horse in average condition only needs to eat 2% of their body weight per day!

Compared to hay, grass has a much higher water content and often higher non-structural carbohydrates such as sugars. Increased intake and varying nutrients can lead to problems such as:

Not to forget the change spring grass can bring about changes in the horses behaviour. We often see increased anxiety or excitability on the ground or when ridden due to ‘spring fever’.

In any field the nutritional value of grass varies from area to area, meaning the value of the whole pasture will be dependent upon the stocking density and variety of herbage and grasses available. We know to be cautious with spring grass, especially if they have been stabled most of the winter. But it is often forgotten that there is another peak of grass growth in the autumn, resulting in high amounts of water-soluble carbohydrates and potentially fructans. During a drought, overgrazing or temperature fluctuations grass may become stressed and which can also lead to high amounts of fructans, which can result in colic and laminitis.

How To Transition From Winter to Spring Grass Safely

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