Grand Meadows Cares Series:  The Horse That Fails To Thrive When Cold Weather Arrives

by Nikki Alvin-Smith

When cold weather sets in certain horses will fail to thrive, which in turn sets up a level of panic in their owners. The evening blanket reveal, when blankets are swapped from turnout to stable styles, often showcases a slight change in the equine body sculpting that may initially go unnoticed. But within a few weeks of cold weather arriving, the horse may demonstrate an inability to maintain its weight level despite efforts to increase the amount of forage and grain it ingests to counteract the effects of frigid winter winds and Mother Nature’s change of season.

Hot-blooded equine breeds such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Barbs, are more prone to losing condition during cold weather than other breeds. Horses in their vintage years, foals, weanlings or young horses in their ‘teen’ periods under three years old, are also susceptible to changes in the weather negatively affecting their ability to thrive.

It is normal for a horse’s weight to fluctuate season to season, and a slight weight loss during cold weather is normal. A horse’s thyroid becomes more active in winter months which produces an increase in his metabolic rate causing him to lose some energy efficiency. As a result the horse may lose more calories to heat loss than during other seasons. A horse that is not being supplied with enough calories to counteract these changes may lose weight. This begins with loss of available body fat deposits and then moves on to a loss of muscle tissue.

The answer to this dilemma for the horse owner is often to simply throw more grain in the feed bucket. This is not a good idea. Assessment of the nutritional value in the grain and forage, how it is balanced, as well as how available its ingredients are for uptake by the horse’s digestive system, should be the first cause of action to assuage the weight loss issue.

Horses lose weight for many reasons:

  • Illness or an undiagnosed medical condition such as lameness, dental issues, parasite infestation etc.
  • Stress-induced weight loss due to a change in routine or environment
  • A shift in herd dynamics
  • A fluctuation in feed rations or quality of forage fed
  • Inclusion of preservative or chemical infused hay extenders/forage in the diet
  • Change in the horse’s exercise program

Maintaining a horse’s body weight within healthy parameters will often require a multi-pronged approach.

Simple remedial actions may include improving the quality of the horse’s diet; the addition of blanket for the horse if none has previously been offered to help the horse conserve energy caused by body heat loss; provision of housing and shelter from rain and snow; and ensuring that the horse is happy and content in its environment with equal access to forage fed in the field as other equine herd members.

It should be noted that horses that are kept in isolation will often become depressed without some form of animal companionship. Any new equine introduced into the mix will require time to settle in while a new herd pecking order is established.

Keen observation of the horse will help their owner figure out whether the weight loss issue is one of not enough feed versus energy expended by the horse through heat loss in the cold weather, or something else.

If the equine has been checked out by a veterinary surgeon and bloodwork and examination reveals no underlying health issue, then successful management of the horse’s weight can often be accomplished by adding a postbiotic or digestive supplement to the animal’s diet.

Look for high quality accurately labelled and formulated digestive aids (ensure they include the NASC seal of approval of the manufacturer and product). It is prudent to review the research and study the supplement before selection.

Postbiotic products can significantly help the horse benefit from what he eats by improving gut health and his overall ability to uptake and utilize the diet he is fed. There are many positive aspects to a horse’s health that administering the right postbiotic product can provide. For example, Grand Meadows’ carefully researched and formulated Postbiotic product offers the following benefits:

  • Whole Body Stress Reduction indicated by sharp drops in cortisol levels.
  • Increases in Free Fatty Acids, Blood Glucose, Hemoglobin and Packed Cell Volume during exercise.
  • Statistically significant reduction in inflammatory prostaglandin markers in synovial fluid.
  • Increasing the structural integrity of the intestinal lining thereby mitigating leaky gut syndrome
  • Targets and eliminates equine specific pathogens in the hindgut.
  • Supporting the immune system by targeting inflammation on a whole-body cellular level absolutely critical given that all disease starts with inflammation.
  • Statistically significant reduction in ulcer scores as a result of an NSAID induced inflammation study.

You can access studies of these results by clicking here or the link below.

Professional horse trainers are invited to apply for a free trial of this product.

Dealing with weight challenges in the horse is not always straightforward to manage, but having a clear understanding of the equine microbiome and digestive process is a good way forward to finding the right solution.

Don’t be shy to investigate the newer options currently available in the horse feed supplement marketplace. Feeding more grain and forage can be an unnecessary drain on the bank balance and may create more problems than it solves, with increased risks for colic and other damaging effects to the horse’s mental and physical well-being. A balanced approach is the best approach.

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 About Grand Meadows: Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.

For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.

Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at

Grand Meadows, Orange, CA
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Tel: 607 434 4470

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