Are you worried about your horse's feeding? Nutrition is an important part of keeping a horse healthy and maintained. Horses are not so difficult to feed but sometimes it gets complicated. We have summarized ten tips for better horse feeding so that you can improve horse nutrition.
Top 10 tips for Better Horse Feeding
Here are the top 10 tips that will help improve the diet of your horse.
1. Access to fresh water
Water is as important for your horse as it is for you. So, the very first rule you should follow for improving your horse's nutrition is to take care of his water supply. A horse can survive a month without food but not more than three days without water. On average, a horse needs 10 gallons of water per day.
Make sure that your horse has access to clean and fresh water. Horses are a bit choosy about water’s flavor. They can detect within minutes if the water is not fresh and probably refuse to drink it. That is why it is advised to take some home water with you if you’re traveling with your horse.
2. Provide plenty of good quality roughage
The second rule you must learn in feeding your horse is to provide plenty of good quality roughage. It provides bulk and boosts fiber intake which is necessary for the gut health of a horse. The digestive system of an equine work at its best when there is plenty of fiber in the diet.
Also, make sure that the roughage is of good quality. It should include both hay and pasture. Try to provide access to free pasture (it is the best form). Otherwise, if you're providing hay in stalls, then it must be 1-2% of the horse's weight.
3. Limit grains or concentrate
While you're providing plenty of roughage, don't forget to add grains or concentrate. Horses do need grains in their diet when they are exercising but make sure to not add too much.
Too much of anything is dangerous. It causes excessive gas due to breakdown in the foregut. The microbes in the hind gut also release gas as a by-product and ultimately, it can lead to diseases like colic and GI upset. So, limiting grain in the feed may improve the nutrition of the horse.
4. Take care of the mineral and vitamin needs
Your horse’s nutritional needs cannot be fulfilled with hay alone. If you believe that pasture or hay, make up a good nutritional amount, you may be wrong. Your horse needs nutrients other than carbs and fats too.
For minerals, he needs calcium, phosphorus, and sodium mainly. Provide free access to a salt block in the pasture or in his stall. Talk to the vet and add supplementation to its diet. It will save the horse from diseases due to vitamin deficiencies.
Other supplements can fortify feed, have medicinal benefits, can optimize performance and more! Check out these herbal supplements for your horse!
5. Feed the horse by his weight, not the volume
It is typically recommended to feed the horses by their weight. For example, if a horse weighs 1000 pounds, feed him 1 pound roughage. You cannot evaluate that such a volume of hay is required for my horse.
Another reasonable way is to check his body condition score. It will provide you with a better understanding of what your horse needs or not. The ideal score ranges from 5-6. However, it may differ according to horse breeds.
6. Make sure the food container is clean
Sometimes the horse feeding behavior can get disturbed if the food container is not clean. Horses demand fresh feed and water supply. If the container has grown some mold in it, the horse will refuse to eat. So, take care of this for better feeding.
7. Feed according to his exercise needs
A horse's feed depends on his individual needs. You can just estimate the amount of feed a horse generally needs but cannot know the exact value. An exercising horse needs vary from a non-exercising horse.
If your horse is exercising, identify the intensity of exercise and then decide on his feed. He may need extra grain to supplement the muscle. Also, make sure to not feed the horse before or right after the exercise. Feed him at least an hour before exercise. Same goes for afterward.
8. Set a feeding schedule and follow it
To ensure a balanced diet for your horse, you must stick to a routine. Make a feeding schedule that at what time you’re going to feed your horse and what type of feed. It will help you to get through many health conditions.
Once you decide on a feeding routine and decide to change the schedule, take it slow. Abrupt changes in feeding routine can also disturb the horse's GI and lead to colic.
9. Monitor abnormal eating behavior
One thing you always forget to check to ensure better feeding in your horse is that you do not monitor abnormal changes. Try to figure out if the horse is feeling okay or not. For example, if your horse is grinding teeth or clenching, he may have some discomfort or pain.
If your horse refuses to feed or the remaining hay volume in the stalls is increasing, you might want to check his teeth. Horses continue to grow their teeth as they age. When the teeth are not all even, they can create hooks, waves, ramps and other abnormal shapes. These can cause difficulties or pain while eating.