Feeding a horse takes experience and knowledge of nutritional principles to ensure your horse receives the necessary balance of foods, vitamins, and minerals for optimum health and performance.
In addition to quality feeds, hay, and other dietary supplements, understanding the importance of exercise, weight management, and environmental influences on nutrition will also maximize your horse's benefit from its meals.
Understanding the fundamentals of horse nutrition is crucial to keep your horse healthy. This article will discuss what you need to know to provide your equine companion with the diet it needs for optimal health.
The Basic Nutrients
As horse owners, you must learn what basic nutrients are the foundation of a healthy diet for horses. They're needed for young and mature horses to ensure an adequate balanced diet.
Water intake makes up around 70% of the body weight of an adult horse and is necessary for digestible energy, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. Therefore, horses should always have access to clean, fresh water.
Monitoring your horse's water intake is crucial as changes in temperature, exercise levels, and diet may affect it.
Fiber is an incredible source of energy for horses and should make up the majority of their diet. They provide the horse with biotin, vitamin B1 and vitamin K. Common sources of fiber can be found in:
- Oat and sunflower seed hulls
However, proper nutrition is all about moderation. Too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity and other health issues.
Protein is a necessary nutrient for horses. It helps to build and maintain muscle, skin, hair, hooves, and other tissues. Protein also plays a role in the production of hormones and enzymes. Common protein sources include soybean meal and linseed.
Additionally, this provides essential amino acids for developing and rehabilitating body tissues.
Fats are also crucial to a horse's diet, regardless of the horse breed type. They bring needed fatty acids and energy to adult, mature horses, and young ones. In addition, fats provide more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins, making them an ideal fuel source for horses.
Common sources of fat can be found in:
- Vegetable oils
- Corn oil
- Fish meal
These fats can help improve coat condition, reduce inflammation, support healthy joint function for your horse, and are necessary for a balanced diet.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals can sustain muscle development, digestion, and other bodily functions. They are easily found in hay, pasture grasses, grains, and other vitamin and mineral supplements.
They also form a part of hoof care, as these are one of the most important areas of your horse that would suffer if there was poor nutrition.
If you wish to ensure the right balance of all these food groups, start writing down the feeding ratio for horses on a horse feeding chart so you know how much to give each meal time and not overfeed.
Monitor Your Horse's Body Composition
Monitoring your horse's body composition from when you first purchased the horse is paramount in ensuring they get the right nutrition from their water requirements to if they need to take fat supplements.
You can do this by regularly checking their weight and body condition scores (BCS). A BCS of 2.5-3 is ideal for most horses, with 0-1 being abnormally thin and 5 being obese.
If your horse's BCS is not within the ideal range, you can adjust what foods are in excessive amounts or which ones your horse is not getting enough of.
To avoid horse-feeding mistakes, you can use a horse weight calculator to stay on top of your horse's body fat as they grow. A horse weight chart is also good at recording this information that you can share with your horse's nutritionist and vet.
Exercising Your Horse
Physical activity should be a part of your horse's overall health and nutrition. Exercise helps to keep your horse fit and happy. It also helps to enhance muscle tone, coordination, and balance.
There are many different types of equestrian workouts that you can do with your horse. These include:
- Trail riding
While these equestrian home workouts are great for your horse, as a horse owner, you can also benefit from these workouts regularly. To avoid horse riding injuries, it's a great idea to incorporate horse riding lessons into your schedule if you're unfamiliar with how to ride one.
You will also learn much more about your horse's response to varying environmental conditions.
Training for Events
Essential nutrients are vital to a healthy horse, whether they’re being ridden a few times to improve on your horse riding mistakes or they’re entering upcoming equestrian events. It’s always a good idea to monitor your horse's body composition.
Different horses require different feed amounts. If you’re looking after a horse that is only ridden once or twice a week, it won’t need as much compared to a competition horse.
Certain competition horses will be entered into the industry of horse sports and games. They will require more energy, so your feed amount should align with what is required for competitions.
To ensure your horse is in peak physical condition, you can also create a training program that focuses on the specific event or discipline your horse is competing in.
When creating a training program, you must evaluate the type of event you're building up for. For example, do you need to work on your horse riding posture, and are there potential horse competitions that your horse can enter?
So Does Nutrition Play a Role in Horse Health?
In conclusion, proper nutrition is essential to maintain horse health and prevent illness. Horses need a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water to thrive and grow. A good diet can even help alleviate existing medical ailments that the horse may be experiencing.
Tied in with the right exercise and training routine and suitable equipment and clothing, you can ensure that your horse is in the best physical condition possible. Nutrition is necessary for a healthy horse and should not be overlooked regarding its overall well-being.