Newsletter June 2016

Dear Horse lover,

"Is it safe to feed vegetable scraps from my kitchen?" "Which hay do I choose?" "How do I feed a more fibre-based diet?" I answer these questions in this edition of the newsletter.

Alex and Sensation

In the next newsletter, Casie Bazay will feature with her article 'What do you do with horses?'. Casie is a freelance writer and blogs for her website 'The Naturally Healthy Horse". She has been involved with horses from a young age and she used to be a competitive barrel racer. Nowadays she focuses on horse health with nutrition being one of her favourite subjects to write on.

Have a wonderful time,

Alex.


Can I feed vegetable scraps to my horse?

"Is it safe to feed my horse vegetable scraps from my kitchen? I know carrots, swedes and parsnips are safe, but what about cabbage, cauliflower, sprout and potatoes?" Myra, Surrey - via Horse Magazine UK

Cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts are part of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables, as are kale, radish, turnip and broccoli. The high vitamin C and soluble fibre content make these vegetables sound like a healthy option. However, the gas production associated with these vegetables means that feeding more than 50-100 grams should be avoided as this can lead to gas colic. Feeding small amounts of cabbage is associated with supporting the digestive system against ulcers, but I would recommend other things first.

Potatoes and tomatoes should be avoided. Green skin of potatoes and tomatoes is toxic and can affect the nervous system and cause colic. Starch in uncooked potatoes is not digested in the first part of the digestive system and can lead to gas colic in the hindgut. Especially toxic are the green plants from which the fruits grow.


Is a fibre-only diet suitable?

"My Irish Sports Horse currently has a bucket feed twice a day, but I'd like to phase this out and give him more of a fibre-based diet. Would this be suitable, and what advice can you give me to make the transition a success?" Alison, Lancashire - via Horse Magazine UK

Whether it is suitable to feed your horse more roughage depends on your horse’s requirements and the nutritional content of your roughage. Many factors impact these, but I can give you some general guidelines to get you started.

Replace the bucket feed with about 1.0-1.5 as much roughage if the bucket feed provides less than 10MJ of energy per kilogram, or with 2.0-2.5 as much roughage if it provides more than 10MJ per kilogram. If you already feed roughage continuously, you may need to look for a roughage with higher energy content.

Make diet transitions gradual. Rather than days, think in weeks or even months if you feed a lot of concentrates and have fed them for over a year.

Look at your horse. If his body weight remains stable, then energy and protein content is likely sufficient, but a vitamin and mineral supplement may still be required especially if you are exercising your horse.


Which hay do I choose for my horse?

"My hay supplier always has three or four different types of hay, from different fields or made at different times of year, but I'm never sure what's best to choose for my horse. How do I decide?" Emily, Merseyside - via Horse Magazine UK

The first and foremost thing is that roughage contains no poisonous plants or mould. Mouldy patches should be removed, but if poisonous plants are present, do not consider feeding it, no matter what it’s nutritional value may be.

The time of harvest is the next most important factor in deciding. The most nutritious hay is harvested before flowering (usually around May). The hay is soft, has many leaves and very few flower heads. Its nutritional value is suitable for horses in training.

Less nutritious, but generally still likely to cover the requirements of leisure horses and those exercised recreationally, is hay harvested after it has flowered (usually around June). Grass leaves and grass flowers are clearly present in this hay.

Hay that is harvested when seeding has many stalks, barely any leaves and feels hard to touch. This hay is likely to provide too little energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for most horses, especially exercising horses.


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