Feeding Horses During Reduced Work

Horse owners are facing uncertain times as COVID-19 spreads and they’re unable to travel to the barn or ride. Here are tips for adjusting your horse’s diet if he’s out of work.
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Feeding Horses During Reduced Work
Focus on forage, and feed according to work being done, so your horse will have the best chance of staying sane and healthy while working less. | Photo: iStock

Many horse owners worldwide are facing uncertain times with the spread of COVID-19 and ever-changing regulations on their ability to leave their homes. Some of us that keep our horses at boarding facilities are facing the reality that we either are already unable to see our horses or may not be able to see them in the near future—potentially for an unspecified length of time. Barns in some locations are having to limit boarder access, allowing only vital staff on-site. While we have been preparing for the possibility of a 14-day quarantine if we get infected or exposed and unable to leave our homes during that period, it wasn’t until a few days ago that many of us realized we might not be able to visit our horses even if we are totally healthy and have not knowingly been exposed to the disease. This possibility brings with it a different set of realities.

States are starting to regulate nonessential movements, which means you might not be able to visit your horse for longer than the 14-day quarantine. Even if you can visit your horse because you keep him at home or are not on some form of lockdown, you might not choose to (or in some cases be allowed) to ride due to concerns that riding-related injuries might be untreatable as a result of all vital resources being consumed by critically ill COVID-19 patients.

horses eating hay in pasture
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What does this mean as far as feeding your horse? The reality is that many horses, instead of ramping up their workloads for spring/summer activities, as would typically be happening at this time of year, are having their workloads reduced as events are canceled and riders are quarantined or prohibited from premises. You might, therefore, need to make feeding changes to limit calorie intake, especially if you are feeding higher-calorie performance feeds. Reduced workloads mean less need for calories

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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