Giving a horse the correct diet is key in making sure it stays healthy ; if its diet is inadequate, its quality of life would deteriorate and it could easily become ill. Before learning what kind of food you should give your horse and how to give it, it is important to know all about the horse in particular, such as its breed, age, health or physical activity. Meanwhile, this Animalized article will explain in general terms what is the best diet for horses.
Horses have a very delicate digestive system, and if you leave them be they'll eat all day, but always in small quantities. The pasture where the horse spends its time must be abundant, green and of good quality.
Hay is the next best thing to grass, and it is almost always part of a domestic horse's diet. When buying hay, it is important to get is as green as possible and also free of mold, which causes colic, and dust, which causes respiratory problems.
Some call them multivitamins for horses as they help balance out any deficits in their diet and provide extra energy. There are blends which include salt and minerals, recommended to help satisfy your horse's cravings.
Horses can drink up to 15 gallons of water a day, and it should always be fresh, cool (not freezing) and clean. Overfeeding a horse can have the opposite effect and cause stomach problems or obesity.
Bread or any kind of pastry are strongly contraindicated because they can become a doughy mass and cause blockages in the digestive tract. Avoid feeding your horse just before or just after intense physical activity at all costs.
The digestion process is essential for maintaining a good state of health. The natural diet of the horse is pasture grass and tender plants.
Pasture grass isn't necessarily the problem, the type of horses we've developed and the lack of exercise are. Those of us with easy keepers need to limit the amount of fresh grass our horses have access to.
For the horse that is a hard keeper, however, good pasture provides the best nutrition. It helps to have hay tested so that any shortfalls in vitamins and minerals can be compensated for with supplements.
Thomas Shampoo / Getty Images Oats are a traditional grain fed to horses. The seed head of grasses would be the closest thing a wild horse would come to eating grains in their natural environment.
Grains that are grown, harvested and processed as we do now, are not natural foods for horses. Grain also doesn't require the chewing time or contain the silica grass does and this can contribute to things like ulcers and dental problems.
Concentrates are usually a mixture of things like grains, flaxseed, beet pulp, molasses for energy and flavor, bran, vitamins and minerals, and other ingredients. Concentrate mixes, like grain, help make up for any shortfall in nutrition and provide a quick source of energy.
Supplements such as salt and minerals may be included in a concentrate mix or may be offered separately. Some people offer free-choice minerals as well, or it can be added into the horse's grain or concentrate meal.
Many people find that salt is consumed more during the summer months than in the colder weather. These tidbits may include things like apples, carrots or other favorite fruits or vegetables, handfuls of grain, sugar cubes or candies, or sometimes odd things like a bite of a hot dog or boiled egg.
However, it may not be advisable to feed horses meat or too many sugary treats, including fruit. Of course, a horse won't make the connection to the hamburger they ate an hour ago and the discomfort they're having now, so they'll probably eat any food they like over and over again.
Treats need to be considered as part of the overall feeding plan and kept to a minimum if your horse needs to watch its weight. A horse eating pasture grass probably won't drink as much water as one on a hay only diet.
Don't be tempted to throw lawn clippings, garden refuse or compo stables over the fence. Make sure your horse or pony has a healthy diet with constant access to fresh water and as much opportunity to graze as possible.
Horses may still need additional hard feed and forage to maintain their appropriate body weight, particularly between late autumn and early spring. Horses fed diets low in forage and high in concentrates (hard feeds such as cubes or grains) are at risk of digestive problems.
They must not be given lawn clippings or access to large amounts of fermentable foods such as apples as they can be fatally toxic. Horses and particularly ponies who are overweight are prone to developing laminates, a very painful disorder of the feet.
A common factor triggering laminates is feeding on lush spring and autumn grass. Remove toxic plants, shrubs and trees such as ragwort and yew from paddocks and other areas.
Toxic plants, even if they are dead, must be dug up and taken completely out of the reach of horses. Internal parasites may also be stealing nutrition from your horse as well as damaging the digestive tract.
If your horse is underweight make sure it has had a recent fecal examination for parasites and had its teeth checked by a veterinarian before simply adding more feed to its diet. Your veterinarian may also want to test your horse's blood to make sure his internal organs are functioning normally.
The best feed for an underweight horse is good quality hay or pasture grass.Give him free choice hay unless there is some medical reason (such as metabolic syndrome, founder (also known as laminates) or Cushing’s disease) not to. Introduce horses to grass gradually to decrease the possibility of founder, colic, or diarrhea.
More hay in its feeder or longer grazing time may be all it takes to see weight gain. Rice bran and flax are also popular additions to the diets of underweight horses.
Some people feel they also help keep the horse ’s skin healthy and coat shining. Whenever you are changing the number of concentrates, do it gradually to decrease the possibility of problems like founder or colic.
Even if you’re experienced on how to feed horses, there are key principles you may be overlooking that could lead to the degradation of your equine partner’s health. A frequent problem I see in the equine industry today is that the majority of horse guardians have holes in their foundational nutrition program.
This type of processing denatures food and destroys nutrients, so it’s best not to buy anything with the word “pasteurized” on the label. Pure forms of most whole-foods breakdown quickly if not properly kept (i.e. frozen or freeze-dried) which means they have a short shelf-life.
In other words, food stuffs that are not processed using high temperatures will retain much more nutritional value. It’s easy to apply this knowledge when choosing quality supplements and food stuffs for your equine partner, and for yourself.
So rather than pellets, choose to stick to live food and whole-food supplements when feeding your horse. Keep in mind that horses in the wild will seek out a variety of plant sources.
Despite popular belief in the horse world, variety is great for your equine companion. Oh, in case you’re wondering, there’s no such thing as a “complete feed.” It’s more about balance over time, not at each and every meal.
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