Late-Summer Equine Nutrition

Summer Pastures

Summer’s heat brings two concerns to equine nutrition programs: drought-affected pastures and loss of electrolytes. We want to discuss some of the options available to ensure your horse’s good health.

Drought-affected Pastures

For many states, late summer brings lots of sunshine and little rain. This combination can lead to an equine nutrition issue: the pasture looks fine (it’s still green), but it is nutritionally different from spring grass. Sunny days fuel the photosynthesis in cool-season grasses (like the famed Kentucky bluegrass). This photosynthesis causes the grasses to produce fructans, which are naturally occurring sugars. The grasses then use the fructans overnight to stay healthy. However, too much sunlight can mean too much fructan—the grasses can’t use all of it overnight and end up simply storing it. The next day, more sunshine means more fructan, resulting in a cycle that can increase fructan levels by as much as 30% in some grasses.

Unfortunately, that high fructan level can wreak havoc with an equine nutrition program. For horses with metabolic conditions like insulin resistance, laminitis, Cushing’s disease, and equine metabolic syndrome, high fructan levels have a negative effect and need to be limited.


Feeding Adjustments During Drought

For horses that need to limit sugars, you’ll need to adjust their nutrition program slowly. These horses will need to take between 1-1.5% of their body weight in forage each day for optimal gastrointestinal health. However, you will need to transition them to hay or chaff to meet that need. As is the case in every equine nutrition program, this transition should be gradual not to upset the horse’s digestive system.

As your horse transitions off the drought-affected pastures, you may need to increase the amount of feed you offer to ensure he still gets the calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients he needs. If your horse is in this situation, we recommend a few smaller meals throughout the day, instead of a single large meal. Another solution may be supplementing your horse’s forage with Stamm 30, which provides all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients he needs, without added calories.


Electrolyte Loss During Drought

With summer’s heat, your horse may be sweating more than usual. As he sweats, he loses electrolytes, which are muscle-helping minerals. Replacing these electrolytes requires more than merely rehydrating with plain water. Fortunately, a simple adjustment to your equine nutrition program is all that’s needed.

Hallway Feeds recently introduced HandiMash, which is a hydrating mash that can replace lost electrolytes. This highly palatable mash is easy to use; mix one part HandiMash with two parts water. In addition to those essential electrolytes, it contains vitamin E to support muscle recovery, aspergillus oryzae for digestive health, and selenium yeast to enhance the immune system.

If your horse is in heavy work, he may benefit from our HydraBoost electrolyte supplement. Adding three to four scoops per day to his ration will help him recover more quickly from exercise. Horses in lower work can also benefit from HydraBoost. However, it would be fed at a lower rate for these horses. Again, the most significant benefit is replacing electrolytes that your horse sweats out in the summer heat.


Get Help From Hallway Feeds

If you need to adjust your equine nutrition program to counter the effects of a summer drought, please give us a call. We’re happy to recommend some strategies to keep your horse in optimal health.

Horses grazing on Drought-affected Pastures during a summer day.