The Science of Winter Feeding

As you prepare for cold weather to roll in, it’s important to keep your horse healthy and warm. Horses are kept warm not only by their winter coat and body fat, but also by an internal heating system: the digestive system of the horse.

Digestion creates microbial fermentation which, in turn, produces heat – keeping your horse warm. What does a horse need to best stoke this internal furnace? Fiber, or more precisely, hay!

While some may think that increasing the amount of grain we feed our horses in the winter will increase our horses’ energy, grain is not the best choice when it comes to keeping horses warm and healthy.

Why is hay a better choice than grain? Hay has a higher fiber content than grain, which means that it is digested more slowly. This allows the horse’s body to sustain his internal heat for a longer period of time.

However, there are some benefits to gradually increasing grain intake for your horse, especially for that hard keeper. Grain will help your horse stay warm by increasing fat calorie intake, causing the horse to gain weight and body fat. Corn, Beet pulp, high-fat grains, and vegetable oil, along with an increase in hay, are great ways to help that hard keeper maintain his weight through the winter months.

Unfortunately, while graining your horse may have longterm benefits, the result is not immediate. When there is a winter storm around the corner, the best solution for keeping a horse warm and healthy can be as simple as feeding him an extra flake of hay.

This article appeared in America’s Horse and you can also find this on

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