What a summer! or should I say " what summer "?This time last year I was concerned about drought and feeding electrolytes, but not so in 2007. This year we have plenty of grass and are all struggling to keep the level of poaching to a minimum. My great concern this season is grass induced laminitis. Normally we can relax a little in July and August as growth slows due to lack of moisture, but this year the rain is ensuring that there are no limitations to growth, so our horses have a constant supply of rich high-sugar grass. Thus a limited time at grass is a must this year, with the indoor periods supported by feeding some conserved forage. I am not a great fan of hay,due to its low nutrient content and tendency to be dusty, and so I would choose to feed bagged forage such as Super Molichop Bloom or Lite. This way at the height of the competition season you ensure adequate nutrient intake and reduce the dust in the stable atmosphere that can lead to coughs.
In July and August many horses have a mid-season slump, when they become a little ' stale 'with the work and competition schedule and just seem to be a bit below power. A trip to the beach for a good gallop,or a different place for a hack, can help enormou sly as indeed can adding a little more energy to the diet. In contrast to what we would assume to be the case, most horses need more feed in the hot weather than in the winter, so now is the time to try out some of the new feeds on the market. Course-mixes in particular have become very sophisticated, targeting particular types of work (fast or slow release energy) while being highly palatable and free of any prohibited substances. Although they seem expensive, with many retailing around £8 + per bag, you have to remember that you are paying fot the research and development that has gone into producing the ideal mix as well as high-quality ingredients. Moreover, when you think of fuel costs and entry fees, what is an extra £1 or so, on a bag of feed to ensure that you are putting the correct fuel into your horse? So if you are suffering from slight mid-season blues, add a little more concentrate to the daily ration and don't forget about oil; add a cup full of this to the concentrate ration which will boost slow-release energy levels and ensure that it is digested along with the concentrates in the small intestine in your horse.
I think I can safely predict that hay this year will be poor quality. Even if the weather improves within the next week or so, the nutrient content of the grass decreases as the season progresses, thus the conserved product cannot be very good. Haylage made from now on will also be lower in nutrient content that last year's crop so we will all have to think of supplementing the forage. Here again I would recommend one of the bagged forage which have a uniform quality and many contain added ' balancer 'type supplements which reduce the need to buy a seperate mineral and vitamin supplement. I would introduce one of these feeds now so that you have time to find the one that best suits your horse, that way you will aviod any autumn slump in condition as the animal's digestive system will be fully adapted to the feed.
Last but not least, be careful with young foals this season. Weather conditions are ideal for worms and young equids have less resistant to theses parasites than older horses. Wet conditions may reduce turn-out for the mare and foal so think of introducing a creep feed earlier than normal as the foal may not have sufficient opportunity to nibble the grass. I favour introducing a small amount of creep feed as soon as possible rather than letting the foal eat the mare's feed. Foals have specific nutritional needs that are different from the mares's and feeds are specifically designed to cater for each, so find a way of feeding the foal seperatly so that its requirments are met. A note of caution, however,don't over feed the amount of concentrates as over feeding energy and protein can lead to developmental orthopaedic diseases, which are definitely undesirable.