Feeding Guide for Your Horse

Feeding Guide for Your Horse

Horses have evolved to eat a very high fiber diet so this should be the main component of any feeding regime. Any extra nutrients or higher energy feeds the horse may need can be added by supplementary feeding if the hay or grass is deficient.

Horses require feed that takes a long time to collect and chew - slow feeding. They evolved to eat low energy fibrous food for many hours of the day and night. They have not evolved to eat ‘meals’ as we do. If you do not take this fact into consideration when feeding your horse you risk behavioral and gastrointestinal problems.

Here is the complete feeding guide for your horse.
  1. A diet of high quality hay or grass will provide the energy and protein that a non-working horse requires. Remember that there are big differences between legume hay such as alfalfa and clover and grass-type hays such as Bermuda and Timothy. Consider giving your horse a tree branch or a branch from an edible shrub occasionally to help keep its teeth in working order. Educate yourself about available feeds and use your knowledge to choose wisely for your horse. If a horse is in training or is ridden frequently, you may want to supplement the diet with grain. 
  2. If you feed your horse grain, give it in multiple smaller meals rather than one large one. Most horses are given grain twice a day for the convenience of their human caretakers. If for some reason you must give your horse a large quantity of grain, consider an additional lunchtime feeding. Small, frequent meals not only are more natural for the horse, but they also allow the horse to better digest and use their food. When a horse is fed too much at once, the food isn't digested as effectively.
  3. Ideally, you should wait an hour or so after your horse has finished a meal before riding them. If you’re going to do something really strenuous, it should be closer to three hours. A full digestive system gives the horse’s lungs less room to work, and makes exercise much harder on them. In addition, blood flow is diverted away from the digestive organs during periods of exertion, so gut movement slows and colic may be a real danger. When feeding a horse after work, let them cool down completely—their breathing rate should be back to normal, and their skin should not feel hot or sweaty. 
  4. Horses should be provided with as much opportunity to graze as possible. Twenty-four hour access is ideal. Without it they can develop disorders of the gut and stomach ulcers. 
  5. When feeding hay, weigh it to make sure you are giving your horse the correct amount for its needs and, if possible, place the hay in several small piles either at ground level or slightly above to allow your horse to assume a better position when eating in a more natural grazing manner. Place the hay on in low feeders or on rubber mats or other protective surfaces if you are afraid your horse will ingest sand or dirt. 
  6. Remove toxic plants, shrubs and tress 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. 
  7. Choose your hay wisely since all hay is not the same. Good hay is leafy as opposed to having too many stems. It will be a light green color as opposed to brown or dark. It will have a fresh, sweet smell with no moldy or musty odor and will contain a minimum of weeds and debris. A variety of hays and grasses from different sources should be fed to help prevent nutritional deficiencies as a result of hay grown in deficient soil 
  8. Nonstructural carbohydrates, like oats, corn, and barley, are also essential to a horse’s nutrition. Provide small amounts of grain to your horse throughout the day. Every day, horses can also have ½ pound of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. Feed grain to your horse in two or three evenly spaced feedings during the day. 
  9. Horses should have access to a free-choice salt and trace mineral product formulated for horses. Most horses instinctively limit themselves to what their bodies need when it comes to salt and trace minerals. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend supplementing your horse's diet with other minerals and vitamins. These should be given directly to make sure that the horse gets the right amount at the right time.
  10. Provide your horse with plenty of fresh, clean water. Horses require between 5-15 gallons of water per day. If possible, make sure that your horse has access to water at all times. Otherwise, make sure that you water your horse at least twice per day and allow several minutes for your horse to drink. Make sure that the water in your horse’s trough is clean and not frozen. Keep the trough clean as well by hosing it out every day.
  11. If your horse’s feeding habits change, consult your vet, as your horse could be ill.
Share on Google Plus

About Safia Bibi