For example, per the guidelines in the National Research Council’s (NRC) Nutrient Requirements of Horses (2007), an average mature horse with a body weight of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) requires 16.7 Meal of digestible energy (DE) each day if not working. That same horse aged 12 months has an estimated body weight of 321 kilograms (706 pounds) and requires 18.8 Meal of DE a day.
While this might be benefit easy-keeper adult horses, for growing yearlings a less mature, less steamy hay is preferred. If you have access to a hay analysis look for excellent quality hay with an acid detergent fiber (ADF is a measure of the least digestible fibrous portion of plants) content of less than about 32% on a dry matter basis.
However, in some parts of the country, such as California, the calcium content of alfalfa hay is very high and sometimes six times higher than the phosphorus. Ideally calcium should be one-and-a-half to two times higher than phosphorus in the total ration.
If they made up the entire ration, this would be more detrimental to bone health than overly high calcium. I’ve seen this same inverted calcium phosphorus ratio in some grass hays grown in the Western states over the past two years.
If your yearling maintains good body weight and sustain growth on an all-forage diet the only thing to add would be a supplemental minerals and vitamins source to ensure the diet is balanced. A horse’s protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload.
A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5 percent of its body weight a day, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage such as hay. While hay alone may not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay may supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.
Use the following tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to select the best hay for your horse: Avoid hay that is over cured, excessively sun-bleached, or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.
Examine the leaves, stems and flowers or seed pods to determine the level of maturity. Avoid hay that contains significant amounts of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.
Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover in the stack to protect it from the elements. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.
Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements. Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse’s ration.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, 4AEP reaches more than 6 million horse owners through its nearly 10,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.
Different types of hay for horses can vary in nutritional value, taste or texture. We will explore all the types of hay that are commonly fed to horses.
If a horse has a heavy workload, or needs more energy and caloric intake, legume hay can be a good fit. The higher percent of calcium in legume hay can present a problem with the calcium/phosphorus balance.
Legumes are different from grasses because they have a relationship between phobia, which is a bacterium, and nitrogen in their roots. These bacteria “fixes” the nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia, then into ammonium which the plant can then use to make protein.
The increased calcium does mean that phosphorus may need to be supplemented, as noted above. Clover Red CloverClover hay can provide energy, protein and fiber, however, if clover molds, it can cause slobbers and bleeding in horses who eat the molded hay.
The flower blooms are small, bright yellow, and form in clusters at the end of the stems. Once seed pods form they extend away from the stalk and look like a bird’s foot (hence the name).
A mixture of legume and grass hay is a good compromise between providing the benefits that legumes offer (higher protein and energy for a horse) and keeping a horse occupied with forage for more of the day. Timothy hay is a common favorite among horses and owners.
It usually has a higher amount of protein than other grass hays but has a better balance of nutrients such as calcium and fiber. Typically, orchard grass is lower in protein than timothy, but it is a favorite amongst horses and owners.
Bermuda grass grows well in a variety of conditions, so it is a common hay for horses. But Bermuda grass provides a good source of forage for horses.
Bermuda is typically the cheapest grass hay you can purchase for a horse. There are some loose correlations between Bermuda grass hay and colic.
It could just be a coincidence between colic symptoms and feeding dry forage though. Oat hay is also quite high in sugar, so it is not a good option for insulin resistant horses.
Additionally, the stalks can be thick, so some horses won’t eat it because of texture. Rye Grass Rye Grassy grass is gaining popularity as a forage for horses as it is quick to establish and grow and provides good nutrition.
It is quite sensitive to moisture fluctuations though, so care must be taken with overwatering or irrigating it (and it may be difficult to get during a drought). Rescue grass grows relatively tall, with broader blades than timothy hay.
It should be noted that it can be harmful to pregnant mares due to an neophyte fungal infection of the grass. Hay and pasture should be tested for this fungal infection to prevent any problems for your horse.
Rescue hay has a palatable texture than other grasses, and can be low in sugar. You don’t want a damp or musty smell Bales should be consistent (too heavy indicates mold or too much moisture, while too light can indicate over drying or lack of nutrients for your horse) Hay should be green.
Color can vary based on grass type and exposure to sunlight. Keep in mind that even though some of these hays may sound better in their description, ultimately the best hay for your horse is the one they will eat.
Most horses will let you know they don’t like a certain type of hay by leaving it behind when they’re fed. Fortunately, there are many ways to design feeding programs that will provide the necessary nutrition in a variety of settings.
In many areas of the world, growing horses are individually given a measured amount of feed on a daily basis. Each of these variables provides a series of challenges for delivering the proper amount of diet fortification.
The first feeding situation is an example for supplying critical nutrients using three different levels of grain intake (moderate, low, and minimal). However, the concentration of critical nutrients (calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc) is often inadequate in a pasture-only diet.
The alfalfa diet is supplying adequate energy, protein, and calcium to support the desired moderate growth rate, but is marginal in phosphorus, copper, and zinc. This type of mixing pellet is unique since it contains low protein (9%), an inverted ratio of calcium to phosphorus, and high trace mineral concentrations.
The veterinary surgeon involved has suggested an energy-restricted diet to avoid any further rapid weight gain. It is important to realize that an energy-restricted diet will decrease the rate of gain; however, the skeleton of the yearling will continue to grow.
Since the skeleton of the yearling continues to grow even on an energy-restricted diet, it is important that the horse receive adequate levels of essential nutrients required for growth. To feed this yearling at approximately 70% of energy requirements with adequate nutrients to support continued skeletal growth, the diet would consist of 11 lb (5 kg) of mixed hay (alfalfa /grass) plus 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) of a ration balancer.
The directions on the feed bag suggest that our example yearling should receive the grain concentrate at a minimum rate of 8 lb or 3.6 kg/horse/day. To provide essential nutrients while still adhering to the owners’ maximum of 5 lb (2 kg) of grain/horse/day rule, the intake of mixed hay remains constant while the level of grain concentrate is dropped from 5 lb/day to 4 lb/day.