Q: Should I drop my horse’s food to a lower level? He is doing much less work at the moment but I’m nervous to make any changes.
A: One key rule of feeding horses is to ‘feed for work done’. This essentially means that when your horse is given time off or a reduction in workload, his feeding should be adjusted accordingly. Generally you can reduce the amount of hard feed given to a horse a lot quicker than you would introduce it, so there isn’t such a need to do this process as slowly. However, to be on the cautious side, especially for horses prone to digestive upsets, it’s always wise to make any changes over at least seven to 10 days.
The main reason for reducing concentrate feed when workload is reduced is to reduce the calorie content of the diet as well as reducing the sugar and starch content, which will help to avoid excessive weight gain, excitability or muscle problems, particularly for horses susceptible to conditions such as tying-up. However, if the horse needs to put on weight during time off as his condition is generally on the low side, then this requires a different action plan. In essence, you will need some specialist advice on your individual case, but generally if you are decreasing workload you should drop the food.