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Feeding Tips for Healthy Horses Proper diet is very important for your horse’s overall health. Poor diet can cause issues such as reduced performance, lameness, colic and increased risk of catching infectious diseases. Apart from water, horses require minerals, vitamins, energy, and protein in their diet. Proper balance and quantity of the nutrients is vital. Nutritional excesses, deficiencies and imbalances can all adversely affect the health and performance of a horse. When deciding what, how much, and how to feed your horse, it’s important to bear in mind that horses have small stomachs, which limits the amount of food they can take at one time. The digestive system of a horse is used to processing small quantities of food continuously; thus, horses tend to nibble on food almost constantly. Bearing this in mind, the main food for horses is pasture. Most mature horses doing moderate or light work will fare okay with just pasture as long as they have quality forage and adequate grazing time. If there is no pasture or it’s inadequate, the next ideal option is hay. If feeding hay only, supply your horse with at least 2 pounds of high quality hay grass, like timothy, or orchard grass (fescue), per 100 pounds body weight each day. If you’re supplementing pasture with hay feed, adjust the amount of hay to keep the horse in tiptop shape.
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A horse is said to be in the right condition when you can’t see its ribs but you can easily feel them. A horse’s weight can be accurately estimated using a height tape, which you can find at most horse feed stores. You can measure accurate hay weights using top loading scales or economical hanging. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses on grass or hay diets, or a combination of both need salt for balancing their rations. Based on age, forage fed, and performance level, horses may also require mineral or vitamin supplements, or protein horse supplements. Most feed stores now sell protein/mineral/vitamin supplements for horses that live on forage diets. These are low in calories and are usually fed at a rate of one or two pounds every day for an adult horse. Due to limits on the feed that can be consumed, feeding forage alone can’t meet the nutrient needs of nursing mares, pregnant mares, growing foals, and hardworking foals. In these cases, the horses’ diets should be supplemented by a grain/concentrate. Feed them appropriate amounts and kinds of grain/concentrate depending on the recommendations of the manufacturer. To change the horses’ diet, do it slowly. Horses still require a forage diet at 1-1.5 pounds per a hundred pounds of weight daily for normal working order of the digestive tract.