Feeding the “Normal” Horse

Trimming is a Feat

Exercise and Riding is Neat

But it’s in what they Drink, Eat and in what YOU Feed

That Make Their Hooves and Their Feet!

It seems strange to use “normal” in this title as personally, I don’t believe there is such a thing!

What I am getting at is that each horse, just like each individual, has a unique “living arrangement and life style” which needs to be put into perspective when determining what your horse’s feeding requirements are.

This is a huge topic and there is absolutely no way that it can be covered in one article. The world of equine nutrition has evolved into a huge market. If you don’t believe me then take a trip to your local feed store and see what is available! The products cover every possible equine “situation” and the choices are endless, yet what does your horse really need?

Before we get started… This article speaks specifically to us horse owners who do not have the pleasure of year round pasture grazing even though they are turned out 24/7/365. So when we are talking about feeding, we are referring to horses that must be supplemented feed to make up for the loss of pasture grazing during winter or drought or generally balance out what they are not receiving from other sources.

Forage

This is the main staple as far as I am concerned. Forage can come in various types. It is important to remember that as a global internet community we’re in various parts of the world and what is available to me in Northern Canada can be different from other areas in North America and completely different from other parts of the world.

Find out what kind of forage is available. Look for local agricultural resources that can help you determine

the best “feed” options for your horse. See whether your area has a local agricultural office. This may be a government office or contact the local colleges and universities to see if they have departments dealing in equine sciences.

Never forget the power of your fellow horse community. Your local feed stores should have some friendly and knowledgeable staff. Many of these places will also have bulletin boards where local forage producers can advertise feed for sale.

Once you have established what forage is readily available to you please adhere to the following:

  • Free of mold and dust. No exception – end of discussion.
  • Always buy good quality forage meaning that it was cut at the optimum time when the plants were not overly mature. Late cuttings generally do not have the same nutritional value and is often less palatable to our horses. They simply do not like the “old stems” and will pick through choosing the tender “stuff” and leaving the rest on the ground. This is a lot of waste for your pocketbook and your time when cleaning it up.
  • We really advocate testing your feed. This is the only way to know exactly what you are feeding your horse. It allows you to be completely aware of its true nutritional value as well as other important attributes (i.e. minerals).

Just think of it this way. Horses are no different then us – calories in and calories out. So, if we use the basic requirement that feed for an “average” 1000 pound horse is around 22 pounds per day (and remember we are only talking about “basic” requirements and not making any adjustments for exercise levels or cold weather) then how do you know if 22 pounds of your feed is actually meeting the nutritional requirements of your horse? Maybe your hay is so top quality you only need 20 pounds. Or maybe it is lower in protein and you need to feed 24 pounds. Take the guess work out of the equation and have it tested.

If you are in the US you can use: http://www.equi-analytical.com/

If you are in Canada you can use: http://www.alcanada.com/

Water – every horse must have access to clean drinking water 24/7. Encourage proper and constant hydration by ensuring that the water bowl or trough is clean at all times.

Minerals – find a good quality all round mineral that you can provide free choice to your horse. If possible stay away from any blend that is high in iron.

Salt – horses must have access to salt at all times. Please ensure you have a salt block set out where all horses can have access.

Remember that this topic is covering the bare basics of feeding. And it is assuming that you have a healthy equine with proper facilities and shelter and no compromising health conditions.

There is no shortage of things to talk about as feeding goes. There are so many different circumstances and conditions our horses live in. Cold weather, pregnant mares, horses being exercised (some hard – some not at all), young horses, old horses. There is just no way to cover it all in one article, but we are looking forward to bringing all sorts of ideas and life lessons to you in our Barn Bloggers section. So please check there for additional information.

We also encourage you to review the feeding requirements for other situations (like foundered horses) since making yourself aware of what “can be” required is never a bad thing. Knowledge is power.

Finally, if you don’t see something on our site and you need an answer, please feel free to contact us.

We really do mean it when we say “Helping Humans Help Horses”.

Although our passion is hoof rehabilitation, a healthy hoof is only acquired through a healthy horse!

For additional reading on this topic here are a few sites that have some good information:

Forage and management articles:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/index.html

Additional Feeding information:

http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=B1355

http://www.safergrass.org/articles.html

Body score information please visit:

http://msucares.com/livestock/equine/pdfs/p2465-horses.pdf