Monday, September 25, 2023
HomePet Species & ConditionSpeciesHorses: How to feed them well

Horses: How to feed them well

Image Credit: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi on Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Horses are great companions who encourage their owners to spend more time in nature. Keeping a horse as a pet requires physical activity and it is proven to be beneficial on owners mental and physical health. Proper nutrition is the foundation of equine health and performance.

The importance of a balanced diet for horses cannot be overstated, as it directly influences their growth, development, immune system, and overall wellbeing. This feature will delve into the fascinating world of equine nutrition, exploring the essential nutrients, feeding practices, and dietary considerations that contribute to maintaining healthy horses.

The Fundamentals of Equine Nutrition

To comprehend equine nutrition, it is crucial to understand
the basic components of a horse’s diet. Horses are herbivores with a digestive system designed for grazing on forage, such
as grass and hay. The primary nutrients required by horses are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Carbohydrates, mainly derived from forage, are the main energy source for horses, while proteins are vital for tissue repair and growth. Fats are a concentrated energy source and play a role in thermoregulation and vitamin absorption. Vitamins and minerals are essential for various metabolic functions, and water is critical for digestion and overall hydration.

Balancing the Equine Diet

Creating a balanced diet for horses involves understanding their specific requirements and adjusting the feed accordingly. Forage, such as high-quality grass or hay, should constitute the foundation of a horse’s diet, making up the majority of their daily intake. Access to pasture grazing is ideal, as it allows horses to engage in natural grazing behaviours. Then pasture is limited high-quality hay can serve as a suitable alternative.

In addition to forage, concentrated feeds, commonly known as concentrates or hard feeds, can be used to supplement the diet. Concentrates typically include grains, such as oats, barley, or corn, along with protein sources, vitamins, and minerals. The amount and type of concentrate should be determined based on the horses activity level, age body condition, and individual requirements. It is crucial to introduce changes to the diet gradually to avoid digestive upset.

Horse drink an average of 5-15 gallons of water every day, depending on the temperature and humidity. Fresh and clean water should be available for horses all the type. If that couldn’t be the case, horses should be watered at least twice a day. Lack of hydration in horses can lead to serious conditions like intestinal impactions and other forms of colic.

Special Considerations in Equine Nutrition

Equine nutrition requires careful consideration of various factors, including age, breed, body condition, and activity level. For instance, young growing horses have specific dietary needs to support skeletal development, whereas older horses may require adjustments to their diet to maintain optimal weight and support joint health.

Similarly, athletic horses, such as racehorses or show jumpers, have increased energy requirements. Meeting their nutritional demands involves providing a well-balanced diet with appropriate levels of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Additionally, the timing and composition of feedings before and after exercise play a vital role in replenishing energy stores and supporting muscle recovery.

Certain health conditions, such as insulin resistance or gastric ulcers, require specialised nutritional management. These conditions often necessitate modifications in the diet, such as reducing carbohydrate intake or incorporating specific supplements to support gut health. When looking through the overwhelming number of feed options, a good way to know which one you need is to compare the protein, fat levels, and carbohydrate levels between them rather than just look for a single magic number. Based on your horses needs and some suggestions from your vet you should be able to find one that will work best. Then we have to slowly introduce them to that feed and monitor changes while on it – how is their stool, how is their coat, energy, are any health issues better or worse on this feed? Also very important is -how is their body condition on this feed? Overweight/underweight we need to make adjustments. This may take 2-4 months of being on the feed before we can properly assess these things. If one feed doesn’t have everything you are looking for you can add the minerals, or fat separately rather than looking for a feed that does it all!

Equine nutrition is a complex and evolving field that requires careful attention to ensure the health and well-being of horses. By understanding the fundamental principles of equine nutrition, horse owners, trainers, and caregivers can make informed decisions about their horses’ diets. A balanced diet, consisting of high-quality forage, appropriate concentrates, and tailored adjustments based on individual needs, is essential for maintaining healthy horses throughout their lives. With proper nutrition as the cornerstone, we can unlock the full potential of these magnificent creatures, ensuring their vitality, performance, and longevity for years to come.

Article contributed by Jyothsna Nelloolichalil, International Petfood Magazine


Most Popular

- Advertisment -

Recent Comments