It has been an unusual year both socialising and competing for horse owners.

Weather-wise, certainly up in the North-east of Scotland, it has been very dry and warm with the accompanying effect on grass supply. It is a fairly common occurrence for some horses and ponies to experience an energy slump at this time of year, heralding the change in the season and the influences that it can have on your horse’s general demeanour.

So what changes are happening at this time of year that could have a potential impact on your horse’s energy level?

Grass seasonal changes

The largest portion of your horse’s diet is (or most definitely should be) forage.

At this time of year, that forage portion is usually, mostly composed of grass and therefore any changes in that can affect your horse’s energy levels if nothing else changes. Generally speaking, grass at this time of year becomes more fibrous and contains less sugar due to the decrease in sunshine levels and dropping temperatures.

This changes the type of energy that your horse is receiving from sugary, fast release type energy to fibrous, slow release type energy and may show up as a horse with less va-va-va-voom.


In this year that we have had, there has been periodic flushes of grass, which may well have given rise to the type of upset tummies that we normally only see in spring time.

A disturbance in the hindgut flora can also have an effect on energy levels, due to its effect on vitamin B12 production by the flora. B vitamins are crucial for energy supply to the horse and a supplemental source of them can be the difference between meeting minimal requirements for health and optimal requirements for top performance.

Crucially, other B vitamins are normally more than adequately supplied to the horse via grass and good quality forage. In a year where grass growth has been minimal and horses may well have been supplemented with poorer quality hay, this may also have had an effect on B vitamin supply and therefore energy levels in your horse.

Coat change time

The other change that happens at this time of the year is that your horse will be going through a coat change from summer to winter coat.

This process uses up energy and protein and if your horse is marginal for either this can have an effect. Do not underestimate this – there are some horses (generally those with a touch of native in them) for which coat change can have a significant effect on their energy levels.

A good supply of vitamins, minerals and quality protein will ensure an easier coat change and a healthier coat for the coming season.

Feeding advice

The above has highlighted some of the reasons why your horse’s energy levels may flag at this time of year, but obviously there can be many other reasons including general health and management which should not be overlooked and always borne in mind.

So what is the best way to make up for this potential energy deficit in your slightly lethargic, lacking in sparkle horse?

Good doers

For them, the first thing to look at is vitamin and mineral supply.

If your horse is not already being fed a vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer pellet at the full recommended level or a nut or coarse mix at the full stated level, then he is likely to be marginal for vits and mins. It can make a great deal of difference to your horse’s energy levels by just addressing this issue.

Also consider B vitamin supplementation as mentioned above as this can often just be the missing part of the puzzle for a more energised horse (check out Harbro One Scoop for a quality general supplement).

If you are not already doing it try giving a handful or two of whole oats or coarse mix for some fast release energy without adding too many calories, this small change can again make all the difference.

Mr Average:

All of the above tips that apply to the good doer can be used for your average horse.

In addition, consider moving up a spec' from his current feed if you are feeding a nut or coarse mix or even just feeding more of his current type. Switching from a cube to a coarse mix of the same nutritional spec' can provide more fast release energy if required.

Remember that, if you are feeding less than the recommended amount, you should make up the deficit in vitamins and minerals by using a supplement. Supplementing oil (linseed or rapeseed oil preferably) can provide slow release energy and give your horse more stamina.

The 'fizzy' horse:

Sometimes even the fizzy horse can start to lose his sparkle, especially if being fed a high forage, low starch diet in order to preserve sanity.

Against the background described above, even these guys can start to flag. Usually a good quality high fibre, high oil conditioning cube containing good levels of quality protein can help pep your fizzy horse up just enough.

If you are feeding a balancer then, as above top your horse up with oil as a great way to increase stamina and boost energy in a controlled way. I would also advocate trying the handful of oats trick on this type as whole oats are actually the safest way to feed cereal starch to horses and a small amount can make all the difference.

Whole oats are higher in fibre and oil and contain more highly digestible starch compared to other cereals (eg barley, wheat, maize). These types of horses are often more prone to the upset tummy scenario and therefore, will very likely also benefit from B vitamin supplementation when energy levels are suboptimal.

If you are in any doubt as to what is the best way to boost energy levels in your horse, please speak to a nutritionist for appropriate advice.