HEALTH & NUTRITION
The nutritional requirements of a horse are
determined by its body weight, age, activity level,
reproductive state, environmental conditions, growth
rate, etc. Mature horses have relatively low protein
requirements and generally require feed that is high in
energy. Younger horses need feed that is high in protein
to support growth.
Forage, in the form of hay and/or pasture, is
a basic requirement for maintaining functionality of a
horse's digestive system.
Unlike ruminants, horses have one stomach.
Feed passes through the stomach and small intestine
relatively quick and any un-digested feed is passed on to
the hind gut where it is broken down through a
fermentation process. Since the rate at which feed passes
through the small intestine directly affects feed
efficiency (nutrient absorption), it is important that
quality, bio-availability and balance of feed be
Many of the nutrients horses require are
produced in their hind gut. Beneficial microorganisms in
the large intestine break down and convert feed into
organic acids, protein, B-complex vitamins and gases. In
addition, the large intestine breaks down fiber which the
horse is incapable of digesting. This fermented fiber is
the main source of organic acids which the horse needs as
an energy source. The efficiency of the fermentation
process is determined by the type and balance of
beneficial microorganisms in the hind gut.
Beneficial microorganisms reduce the buildup
of gases and acids in the hind gut and help reduce
incidents of colic.
If energy in the horse's diet is low, protein
can also be converted to energy.
orthopedic diseases including physitis, OCD, and
contacted tendons are problems associated with fast
growing foals. These problems can be minimized by
decreasing energy intake.
Horses require protein for growth, muscle
development, skin and hair development, reproduction,
lactation and repair of body tissues. The quality of the
protein (the content of essential amino acids) as well as
the total amount of protein fed is important. When feeding foals, close
attention should be paid to protein quality, protein
intake and activity level.
feeding schedule promotes feed efficiency.
The lysine (an indispensable amino acid)
requirement for weanlings is 0.6 to 0.7% of the diet and
for yearlings 0.5% of the diet.
Generally, a balanced diet of good hay and/or forage together
with quality gains can provide the balance of amino acids
for most horses.
serious nutritionally related problems in mature horses
are colic and laminitis (founder). Generally, colic
results from sudden changes in diet. Laminitis is a hoof
disease that can cause lameness. Generally Laminitis is a
result from over consumption of high energy feed.
require a balanced diet formulated to size, age, activity
level, gestation, etc. Horse rations should be formulated
by weight as opposed to volume.
vitamins and minerals should be fed only when required.
Excessive use of supplements, vitamins and minerals
should be avoided.
Commercial feeds containing urea (a
non-protein nitrogen source) should NOT be fed to horses.
Contrary to popular belief, excessive protein
will NOT promote muscle development in horses. Excess
protein is broken down into calories (energy) and urea,
which is excreted in the urine.
on environmental conditions and activity level, a horse
requires one half to one gallon of fresh water per 100
lbs. of body weight per day.
minerals & salt should be fed free choice.
require around 2.5 to 3.0 pounds of feed per 100 pounds
of body weight per day. This includes at least 2.0 pounds
of forage or good hay. Avoid feeding dusty, damp or moldy
hay and grain - it can result in indigestion and
required, feed grain twice daily.
possible horses should be fed individually. This can
prevent more aggressive horses from over-eating and less
aggressive horses from under-eating.
horses rations containing Rumensin. Rumensin is a growth
stimulant used in formulating feed for ruminants. Rumensin can cause
mortality in horses.
working or exercising a horse immediately after feeding.
Allow one to two hours for a horse to digest it feed.
teeth should be floated and checked on a regular basis.
horses on a regular basis can prevent circulation and
changes in feed type and feed intake should be avoided.