As with any pet, it can be difficult for owners to understand the correct diet and feeding regime for their horse. Of course, there are the basic principles that underpin equine nutrition; however, it is important to treat horses as individuals when it comes to feeding. What works for your horse could be different for someone else’s, and very much depends on the animal's body weight and workload.
With horses, their feeds can usually be grouped into the following two areas:
(Hay, haylage, chaffs, grass, sugarbeat)
These feeds are an important part of every horses’ diet and tend to be low in starch and high in fibre. As fibre takes time for horses to chew, eating forage encourages saliva production, reducing the risk of gastric ulcers and other health conditions. It is important to ensure that any forage is high quality and free from dust and mould.
(Oats, maize, barley)
These feeds are required by those horses who need more calories either due to illnesses requiring weight gain or because their level of exercise requires such to maintain condition. That is because they are full of energy and rich in starch.
Below are some key points to remember when feeding your horse:
- Ensure that they have continuous access to fresh, clean water
- They need access to as much fibre as possible
- They may not obtain adequate nutrition from the pasture alone, meaning their diet will need to be supplemented with forage and hard feed
- Maintain areas such as paddocks to ensure that they are free from toxic plants, trees, and shrubs
- Refrain from making quick changes to your horses’ diet, as this can lead to them becoming unwell
- Regularly monitor body weight with a weigh tape. Horses that are overweight commonly encounter serious diseases such as laminitis (a painful foot disorder).
Remember, we are here to help. If you want to discuss your horse’s lifestyle and how it affects their diet, or have concerns that they might be feeding differently, please get in touch.