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Preparing for the Risks of Summer

Weather gurus have been saying that there will be a drought this summer on the entire East Coast. For lawns and dirty cars this means the inconvenience of rationing water usage. However, these water shortages and resulting poor grazing conditions means horse owners will have to take extra steps to deal with the summer months.

Dry forage isnít a problem nutritionally since horses can get some form of nutrition even from dry and short forage. However, the issue is with the weeds that take over during the dry seasons. Horses will eat weeds if they canít find any grass whether or not these weeds are toxic to themselves.

While some nutrition can be gained from short and dry pastures it most certainly isnít giving your horse sufficient nutrients. As long as you have an adequate supply of hay then supplementing shouldnít be a problem. If you have a horse with a good

body condition then it is okay to supplement with a little big of hay and grain if your hay supply is going to be tight throughout the summer months. Another option for those with a tight supply is to feed chopped forages.

You can determine when your horse requires more nutrition than what the grass is giving them through body scoring. A body condition between 5.5 and 7.5 is good for normal horses with one being emaciated and nine an obese horse. During the summer months the horses that will be most at risk are the young, growing foals and their mothers.          

During the summer months for a horse it is a good idea to feed a high quality and palatable concentrate. You should feed the horse at a rate of half-pound per one hundred pounds of current body weight for the mothers and a pound per month of age for the growing foals.

During drought conditions it may be a good idea to consider creep-feeding foals and earlier weaning around four months of age can help both the baby and its mother. When pastures are dry it is more economical and effective to feed the foals for continual growth rather than the mothers.

In especially dire situations horse owners may have to consider culling idle horses or non-producing broodmares. During a drought you should especially keep your eye on senior horses since it is very difficult to regain lost weight in these horses.

Your pastures might revive during the rains of the later summer and early fall. At this time you can start to decrease your supplementation of grain and hay. Reducing grazing hours is another excellent way to prepare for the drought season. During the summer days horses are likely to graze at night while staying in the shade during the day. So a good idea is to stall the horses at night and provide them with an adequate supply of hay. This way you can stretch out what pasture forage you have until the rains begin. In the summer providing your horse with salt is more important than any other time of the year.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Hay: What if there is a shortage?
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