Wintering out without hay?

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19 February 2017
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hi, I have recently bought a lovely chunky cob mare, 14.2hh, who is currently rather obese. She is unclipped, wont be doing much this side of winter and has a good coat on her. Where she is kept is a farm on a hillside so nicely drained. Her field is about 2 acres with good grass still, and shelter on 2 sides from the elements. Its already cold up here (Alness, Ross-shire North Highlands) and was -2 at 6pm tonight.

My question is whether I should be considering hay at this time, or will she be comfortable enough on grazing? I have a rug for her but the weather is still up and down (8 degrees some days, 1 the next) so I'm keeping her unrugged until its constantly wet or very cold. The farm has plenty of grazing so potentially I can move fields several times as required. Hay is expensive this year, with round bales around £50 each, so I am hesitant to start feeding too early. Anyone in a similar position who would like to share their thoughts? Thanks.



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milliepops

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If that picture is representative of her grass then I wouldn't be considering it for some time.
I have 2 fat retired horses out at grass who are doing rather well at the moment and won't have even a sniff of hay unless we get snow that covers the grass for a good while.
 

paddi22

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she looks like a cutie, but if she was mine i'd be using winter to get her to drop a good bit of weight, so i wouldn't rug or feed hay.
 
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Thanks - that's not her field but the grass cover is quite good although not mega lush. I just want to be sure she is warm enough through what she eats, and wasn't sure if winter grass would be sufficiently nutritious.
 

Nicnac

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She definitely doesn't need hay. I'd just keep an eye and see where's she's at in a couple of months. Great opportunity to get her into Spring at a healthy weight. She looks lovely.
 

Goldenstar

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I agree she does not need hay I would think she won’t need it until it snows .
She’s a lovely type of cob but very porky .
 
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Gosh! Your lovely mare is almost the split-image of my new girly!!

I have my own land here, and last year here all the Herd (two oldies as well, no longer with us as it wasn't fair to put them through another winter) were out in it. All good-doer cobs. Two oldies were rugged, little'un (4yo coblet) was out without a rug. I didn't feed any hay at all last winter which was a wet one, or the year before. The only time they have ever had hay is they need to come in for say the farrier/vet and can have a nibble of hay to keep them quiet! They all thrived.

This year its just the two, i.e. new mare 7yo arrived in September (like the one OP has in the photo) and youngster. Both horses mares, both young, healthy/wormed, good doers, cobs. They are out in 5 acres of pasture at the moment with the other half where they'd normally be, fallow; am expecting local farmer to put sheep in with them in the New Year. Am not feeding hay, they don't need it. But they are having one feed a day which is Dengie Hi-Fi Lite/Mollasses free mixed in with soaked Speedibeet with a scoop each of Benevit Advance. Both in very light work. Both thriving! This is in Devon.

I think your mare looks fantastic OP. I wouldn't be changing anything, or worrying unduly.
 

fidleyspromise

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Agree with Gloi - Last winter I barely put hay out at all as mine had plenty grass but I strip grazed to stop them trampling it into mud.
(I'm not far from you as near Inverness). The year before was similar and 3 bales of hay were used only towards the end of the winter due to the ample grazing.
I wouldn't rug unless she needs it (not just because it's wet or cold but because she IS cold). My Natives lives out unrugged all winter.
 

Nudibranch

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I also wouldn't feed. My natives are out without hay still and have dropped some weight but are still well covered so there'll be no hay unless it snows. It's the digestion process that generates their warmth rather than the nutritional content afaik, so your cob should be able to keep herself warm as long as there's plenty to graze.
 

maisie06

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hi, I have recently bought a lovely chunky cob mare, 14.2hh, who is currently rather obese. She is unclipped, wont be doing much this side of winter and has a good coat on her. Where she is kept is a farm on a hillside so nicely drained. Her field is about 2 acres with good grass still, and shelter on 2 sides from the elements. Its already cold up here (Alness, Ross-shire North Highlands) and was -2 at 6pm tonight.

My question is whether I should be considering hay at this time, or will she be comfortable enough on grazing? I have a rug for her but the weather is still up and down (8 degrees some days, 1 the next) so I'm keeping her unrugged until its constantly wet or very cold. The farm has plenty of grazing so potentially I can move fields several times as required. Hay is expensive this year, with round bales around £50 each, so I am hesitant to start feeding too early. Anyone in a similar position who would like to share their thoughts? Thanks.



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I would NOT be even considering giving her hay! She is the type who will just pile on the weight, as long as she has grass to pick at she will do just fine, I had a mare very similar and she only got hay once the grazing was gone or if there was snow on the ground, she lived to a grand old age too. If she drops some weight it would be a massive bonus for her going into the spring too.
 
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thanks again for all the feedback. She is out on a big field with one other hardy pony now, and the grass cover is still ok. So we are at the end of December and I honestly don't think I'll need to think about putting hay down for a while still. I put a tape round her, plus checked it with a weight management app, and she comes in around 580kgs, which is far too heavy for a 14.2hh cob I think. So its definitely going to be weightwatchers with this mare!!

Excuse my position - loan saddle and she wouldn't stand still for the photo!
 

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Rowreach

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As others, I wouldn't rug or feed hay. Mine (small cob) is out with 5 others, all unrugged, and the only time they got a sniff of hay was a couple of weeks ago when we had 48 hours of torrential rain and they were brought into a barn for the sake of the field. He looks better this year than in any of the previous ten years I've owned him.
 

fidleyspromise

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Looks like you're going in the right direction. I use a weigh tape to help me judge if weight is increasing/decreasing however it can change depending on time you do it - its recommended to do it at same time of day each time.
Have you looked at body condition scoring?
 

milliepops

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well I thought we were wintering out without hay... then delinquent old horse broke into the roped off haystack, chomped through the black wrap and started an all-you-can-eat buffet :oops:

So the stabled horses got a delivery with a giant Millie nose-hole this week... it's about 2 feet deep!

 

JillA

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Once the grass has gone to very little she will need fibre in her gut. If you can find some clean, non dusty oat or barley straw that would be ideal - fibre but calorie negative.
But here the grass is still growing very slightly. My 17hh poor doer TB is on a couple of acres of foggage that was pretty sparse after the summer we had, but even now he isn't cleaning up a small net of really sweet hay each day, and taking hours to finish his bucket feed. And looking as good as he has looked for years of being stabled.
 
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