We love our equines, and we try and do our best by them. But if asked, who can remember the golden rules of feeding them in the best way?
A horse’s gut is complex; stomach upsets can lead to colic which not only means costly vets bills, but more importantly distress for your horse. Many issues such as a change in behaviour or poor performance could be an indicator towards ulcers. A few simple pointers can make sure you are giving your horse a consistent and safe daily diet.
Here’s a handy guide to remind you of those golden rules.
- Provide access to fresh, clean water at all times. Don’t forget to clean the container or trough they are drinking out of. In average weather a horse will drink about 20 litres a day, more so in hot weather. In cold weather, check your field troughs haven’t frozen. If your horse is reluctant to drink, try putting an apple in the water to tempt them.
- Feed by weight not volume. Different types of feed will weigh differently in the same scoop. For example, one level round scoop of nuts weighs approximately 1.8kg, but a pasture style mix will weigh less and a soaked beet feed will weigh more.
- Feed little and often. It’s advisable to feed between two and four buckets a day. No more than 2kg of concentrates should be fed in one feed. One big feed a day does not help a horse’s digestion as they have limited stomach capacity. Always read the instructions on the bag as some feeds need soaking.
- Always use high quality feeds. Do not use dusty, mouldy, or out of date feed as that can quickly lead to respiratory issues. Look for the assurance quality mark on your feed bag to make sure the company is following the appropriate guidelines. If in doubt, opt for a large reputable feed manufacturer; a quick search of their website should offer you choice of products and even nutritional advice by one of their experts.
- Feed according to body weight and temperament. Remember each horse is different. Some need to keep weight on, but can have stressy or nervy characters, so a high fibre, slow release diet would be better. Again, any feed expert should be able to advise accordingly.
- Make any changes to the diet gradually so the horse can adjust. This rule not only applies to concentrates, but new turn out and a change in forage.
- Don’t feed directly before fast exercise. Us humans wouldn’t chose to work out on a full stomach, so bear that in mind for your horse!
- Try and feed your horse at the same time each day. Horses are creatures of habit and feel more secure in a settled and established routine.
- Feed according to workload. If your horse is a competition horse, you should feed less when he or she is on holiday. Otherwise they might become a handful. In the wintertime when there is no grass growth or goodness, consider supplementing turn out with a different forage such as hay.
- Feed plenty of fibre and make sure they have something to graze on. Horses produce saliva when chewing which neutralises stomach acid and helps prevent choke.