Feeding Special Needs Horses in the Winter, Presented by Kentucky Performance Products

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Horse Nation. Words by Kentucky Performance Products.

Managing special needs horses can be difficult at the best of times, but during the winter doing so can be even harder. Here are some tips for feeding those special needs horses in winter.

Photo courtesy Kentucky Performance Products.

Preventing winter weight gain in easy keepers
  • Some horses gain weight when given a winter break from trail riding, training, and/or showing.
  • Monitor your horse’s weight carefully during breaks and, if necessary, back off on concentrates.
  • When you feed less than the recommended amounts of a commercial concentrate, you need to supplement with a complete vitamin and mineral pellet (Micro-Phase ™) to ensure your horse’s nutrient requirements are met.
  • Never cut back on hay to reduce calorie intake; instead, change to a more mature grass hay that will provide plenty of fiber but less energy.
Weight loss in hard keepers and how to avoid a winter energy crisis
  • Long hair coats often mask weight loss, so monitor your horse’s weight carefully. Regular body condition scoring is beneficial. Don’t wait to increase calories; do it at the first sign of weight loss.
  • Provide free-choice high-quality forage 24/7, when possible.
  • When additional calories are needed, add a high-fat supplement (Equi-Jewel®) to the diet. Avoid feeding large amounts of concentrates high in starch and sugar, as they increase the risk of colic and laminitis.
  • Provide a digestive tract supplement (Neigh-Lox® Advanced) to ensure digestive health and stimulate the appetite.
Careful winter management reduces the risk of health problems in metabolically challenged horses
  • Winter can be a risky time for metabolically challenged horses. Research has shown that cold weather causes greater variability in a horse’s insulin levels. Additionally, horses tend to exercise less when it is cold, which can cause insulin levels to increase.
  • Continue feeding a low starch and sugar diet throughout the winter months.
  • If your horse is on medication or supplements to help control metabolic disease, continue to use them as prescribed.
  • Keep a close eye on your horse and check in with your vet if you see any foot soreness or other out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
  • When additional calories are needed to keep your horse warm in cold weather, increase the amount of grass hay you feed.
  • If you need even more calories to maintain body weight or provide energy, add a high-fat supplement (Equi-Jewel®) that is low in starch and sugar to the diet.

Is your horse currently suffering from metabolic syndrome and insulin dysregulation?

Do you have a horse that is at risk for developing insulin resistance, or a horse with Cushing’s (PPID) that may become insulin resistant?

Ask your vet about InsulinWise™.


  • Maintains lower blood insulin levels, a marker of increased insulin sensitivity.
  • Reduces body weight.
  • Supports a decreased risk of laminitis in insulin-resistant horses.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®. Not sure which horse supplement best meets your horse’s needs? Kentucky Performance Products, LLC is here to help. Contact us at 859-873-2974 or visit our website at KPPusa.com.