We’re willing to bet many of you have vowed to begin the New Year with a healthier lifestyle and maybe even an overhaul of your diet – but have you considered doing the same for your horse? With endless articles and conflicting information on how to feed your horse it’s easy to get lost in the noise, so we’ve collected some simple tips and advice to help you choose between the different types of horse feed.
The best diet
Though there are numerous horse food manufacturers and specialist supplements on the market, it’s important to remember that the majority of your horse’s diet should consist of foraged materials – grass, haylage, and hay – and that a shortage of these can lead to gut problems and even stomach ulcers. Throughout the spring and autumn months it is a good idea to monitor your horse closely if they are grazing openly, as the lush grasses at these times of year are typically higher in calories and can lead to weight gain, increasing the risk of laminitis. During the winter, increasing the proportions of hay or haylage in the diet is necessary due to loss of grass. If you are able, have your hay tested to assess nutritional balance and ensure that you are supplementing the correct vitamins and minerals if needed.
Balanced nutrition tips
Once you have an idea of the vitamins and minerals your horse may be lacking through grazing, there are many types of horse food which can help to redress the balance. A mix or concentrate can be used to supplement the feed if your horse has high energy requirements, whereas a balancer is often better suited to boost vitamin and mineral intake when calories need not be increased. Finally, if your horse is in rest or light work and does not need an energy-boosting product, but is missing in key areas such as copper, selenium, zinc or vitamin E (which are typically needed due to naturally low levels in the average equine diet), then a supplement is the best answer.
You’ll be pleased to know that there are some relatively low-cost, simple cures proven to help with many common horse health issues:
- Benefits of carrots: due to the soluble fibre found in carrots, they can provide a good remedy against diahrroea in horses. They are also effective at preventing intestinal worms, as they contain an essential oil which naturally kills the parasites.
- Soaking oats for horses can be a good way to boost the amount of lysine in their diet, which is the most crucial amino acid protein to incorporate as horses require more of this than other amino acids (Dengie). Though there is some advice that oats can cause digestion problems, soaking for 24 hours and draining one hour before feeding creates a living enzyme which makes them easily digestible. This process also increases absorption of vitamin E naturally found in the husk (Ellen Collinson).
- The importance of water cannot be overstated: the RSPCA recommend providing your horse with constant access to fresh water wherever possible. During the winter months it is a good idea to mix a portion of warm water into the trough, as many horses dislike drinking cold water and may not drink enough as a result.