Feeding first

Written by Alexandra Wesker on 27 June, 2016

As published in Horse & Rider Magazine, Spring 2015 issue.

Are you meeting your horse’s dietary needs? Whatever his workload, age or temperament, we’ll get you on the right track.

If you watch your horse grazing in his field, you’ll notice he spends most of his time eating on the move. Unless he’s asleep, it is unlikely you’ll see him standing still for long. This is the natural way of eating for a horse.

The horse’s digestive system is built to deal with small, but constant, amounts of food. It is estimated that wild horses forage for 14–18 hours a day, getting their nutrients from a wide range of forage, including herbs, rather than just grass alone. Field and stable-kept horses are more restricted, and with the increased expectations we place on them, they need our help to balance their diet. Roughage, such as grass and hay, makes up the biggest part of this. It contains all the nutrients a horse needs, but not necessarily in sufficient amounts to meet his needs. If your horse is fed a roughage-only diet and maintains his weight well, then it is possible that he is getting sufficient nutrients (except for sodium and chlorine), providing he is not in work. But this can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis and after a roughage analysis has been done.

Providing a salt lick containing sodium chloride or a mineral and vitamin supplement may be useful alongside a roughage-only diet. However, if he is in work, he will almost certainly require additional feed, a balancer or supplementation to meet his daily requirements.

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categories: nutrition, weight, growth, veterans
tags: roughage, fibre, hindgut-health, stereotypic-behaviour, stomach-health, nutritional-requirements

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