If you want your horse to stay fit and healthy, the one thing you cannot afford to ignore is nutrition. A horse that is properly fed will have the foundation they need to lead a long, healthy and active life. Here we will consider some of the basics of feeding your horse and keeping it healthy.
Age and Activity Appropriate Feeding
What you feed your horse has to be appropriate to its activity level and age. If you have a pregnant horse or one suffering from illness you will also have to adjust their diet to take account of the extra stress their bodies are under.
Changing the horse’s diet to meet its changing nutritional needs is key to keeping it strong and healthy. At times, you may need to rely upon supplements to help you to give your horse the nutrients that they need to deal with heightened activity levels, a pregnancy or to help them to fight a disease. If you are going to feed your horse, supplements it is always wise to consult your vet or seek advice from an equine nutritionist. Doing so will help you to find the right product for your particular horse.
However, it is important not to rely too heavily upon supplements. A horse whose core diet is not balanced and correct will never be healthy no matter how many supplements you feed them.
The importance of Forage
Forage must form the basis of any horse’s diet. Horses evolved by eating grasses or hay, therefore, need this type of food in order to remain healthy. Forage gives horses the fibre that they need for their digestive tract to function properly.
Chewing forage is a slow process, which insures that enough saliva is produced. Saliva is an important component of the digestive system. Interestingly, your horse also needs access to forage to maintain the correct body temperature. Fermentation of forage the large intestine produces the heat your horse needs, in particular in the winter.
A Stable Diet is also important
A horse’s digestive system is complex. To work properly it needs the right balance of bacteria. Therefore, horses do not respond well to constant changes in diet. Once you find a mix of feed that works for your horse, it is best not to change it. Doing so will ensure that they get as many nutrients as possible out of the food that they eat. The moment you upset the digestive processes it becomes more difficult for your horse’s body to process the food and absorb the nutrients from that food properly. Within a relatively short period, your horse can become weaker and more vulnerable to disease.
Feed Little and Often
Despite being quite a big animal horses have relatively small stomachs. Something that surprises many people. A 16-hand horse only has a stomach the size of a rugby ball. Therefore, it is important to feed your horse little and often. Over feeding leads to extremely difficult to cure digestive problems. Not feeding them enough can lead to your horse losing weight rapidly, which of course also makes them more susceptible to other health problems.