Feeding Your Horse
A short guide discussing the proper way of feeding your horse including the way to decide how much your horse should be fed and what type of feed.
A horse needs to be fed in order to grow and to work; the required nutrients fall into seven categories:
Proteins (to aid growth)
Carbohydrates (for heat and energy)
Fibre (to assist in digestion)
A well balanced diet should consist of 1/6th fat, 1/6th protein and 2/3rds carbohydrate.
When the grass is growing well (generally in April - June), a horse that is not in hard work will maintain a healthy weight. During the winter months they may require extra feed such as hay to maintain that condition.
There are several things that need to be taken into account when determining how much to feed a horse:
*Weight of horse.
*Age, a young horse (under 8) requires extra protein as do older horses (over 12).
*Work that the horse is doing. Obviously a horse that is doing more work requires more feed.
*Time of year. A horse will require more feed in winter to maintain body temperature.
*Grazing available. Amount of grass that the horse is eating when turned out.
*Personality. A fizzy horse will require less energy giving food than a sluggish horse.
When deciding on the type of feed to give a horse, there are two main options. You can choose to feed your horse a compound feed which is a ready made mix of the conventional feeds. They are relatively expensive but convenient, they can be bought in mix or cube form and mixed with conventional feed to make it slightly less boring for the horse.
The conventional feeds that make up the compound feeds can be bought seperately and mixed at home; this allows for greater flexibility but it is harder to maintain a balanced diet.
The feeds that generally give energy to horses are:
*Oats are high energy feeds which sometimes cause horses to become to hyperactive, they are however good sources of protein.
*Maize is also a high energy feed that cannot be fed whole so needs to be cooked or flaked; unlike oats it is not rich in protein but is fattening.
*Similarly peas and beans are extremely heating and should only be fed to horses in very hard work and even then should be fed in small quantities.
Feeds that bulk horses and help them to put on weight are:
*Barley, which is a very tempting feed for horses, so can be used with picky horses.
*Bran. When fed wet has a laxative effect and when fed dry has the oposite effect.
*Sugar beet, which must be soaked for 24 hours before being fed to horses, is good at putting on weight.
*Chaff is a straw and hay mix which increases the bulk in the horse's diet and slows him down when eating the rest of his food, (often used to supplement compound feeds).
This guide has not yet touched on the subject of additives. These are so widely available for so many different deficiencies that it is best to seek expert help individualy before feeding any additives as a balanced diet should not require any at all.
Briefly the main type of additives used are:
Vitamin B12 for high performance horses.
Cod liver oil for stabled horses who lack vitamin D or to improve the coat.
Gelatin for horsess with brittle feet.
Linseed in small quatities improves the coat.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as feeding horses is concerned. Every horse is different with its dietary requirement and you should always keep a close eye on your horse to ensure that it is healthy.
A horse should be fed approximately 2 1/2 % of its bodyweight of which 3/4 should be fibre and 1/4 should be concentrates, this can become as much as 1/2 concentrates if the horse is in heavy work.