Snow-less patch in my yard over the septic tank January 2016
What do you do to keep your horse warm on cold, wet northwest winter nights? When the temperature drops into the singe digits and especially when it’s extremely wet and cold, horses are known to require considerable more energy to keep warm. Hopefully, you’re throwing them an extra flake or two of hay, and here’s why…your horse’s gut is just like my septic tank. Let me explain.
Septic systems work because beneficial microbes in the tank are digesting the organic material you flush down the toilet, and they produce a lot of energy from all that activity. The reason that there is a sizable grass patch in my yard is that the energy (in the form of heat) released by these energetic little bugs is keeping the snow melted above the septic tank! So, of course, being an equine nutrition specialist, the first thing that came to mind when I saw the grass patch surrounded by a foot of snow was how it related to that fibrous hay I just fed my horses.
The horse’s hindgut, including the cecum and colon, are large cauldrons of metabolizing flora and fauna! Just look at the size of the hindgut when you compare it by percent volume. These happy bugs make healthy horses plus a great deal of heat digesting the fiber the horse consumes. So, next time the temperature plummets or it’s been raining for the 10th day in a row, be sure to throw your horse an extra 3-5lbs of hay at night to keep them warm. The exact amount of feed to increase will depend on the ambient temperature, how well adapted your horse is to the climate, his/her current body condition, age and maturity.
In addition, don’t be afraid to increase the daily ration of energy in the form of a well balanced feed product like Equis Element or Golden Senior by 1-3 lbs per day. The feed will mostly be digested in the small intestine by enzymatic activity (not the bugs), but the additional energy will be available to maintain a body condition score at or above a 5. Your horse will come out of winter ready to go!