Not only the feed itself, but also the way you feed your horse can have a lot of influence on its health and wellbeing. Here are 10 tips to feed a horse as optimally as possible.
- Sufficient high quality roughage – Roughage is the basis of a horse’s diet, its entire digestive system is geared to this. When a horse is not getting enough roughage, or poor quality roughage, this can lead to various health problems. You can think of dental problems, gastric ulcersor colic. The quality and nutritional contents of your roughage can often not be checked by just looking at it. To really know what you are feeding, it is advisable to have your roughage analyzed so that you are well aware of its nutritional value. You can then supplement any lacking nutrients, vitamins or minerals by means of concentrates.
- Feed little and often – The horse’s stomach is relatively small (8 – 15 liters) and is therefore most suited to smaller portions, offered throughout the day. It isbetter for the horse to have small portions more often during the day, than one big portion only 2 or 3 times a day.
- Each horse is different – The bigger and heavier a horse is, the more food it will need to support itself. The same goes for a horse that does a lot of (intensive) work, it will also need more energy. The horse’s temperament can also influence its diet. Some horses are naturally a bit more energetic, you could feed those a diet that contains more slow energy (such as fats) and less fast energy (such as sugars). Young horses often need extra energy and nutrients for growth. The seasons also affect the diet. In winter, certain vitamins and minerals may be less present, for example vitamin E. You could supplement this in the winter period. Itis also recommended to have your roughage analyzed as a starting point.
- Always give clean water – Water is very important for your horse. On average, a 500kg horse drinks 25 liters of water a day without performing any work. That may be more than youthink. Its drinking needs increase with the horse’s workload. The type of roughage also determines the water absorption. If your horse is turned out in the field all day, it will probably drink less water than a horse that only eats hay.
- Wait before working – Working on a full stomach is not pleasant for the horse and can reduce its performance, or could even cause colic. If you have to compete or train intensively, it is better to feed concentrates at least 3 hours in advance.
- Feed for tomorrow – If your horse has a day of rest tomorrow, give it less concentrates today because it will not be using the energy. This is especially true for horses that are largely stabled. If you continue to feed the same amount of concentrates, the horse is at risk oftying up (also called azoturia or rhabdomyolysis).
- Change gradually – The intestinal flora are geared to a specific diet. Sudden changes in the diet can lead to poor digestion, which can lead to diarrhea or colic. Therefore, ensure a very gradual transition when you switch to a different feed. You can do this by mixing the old and new (concentrates or roughage) feed for a few days, where you will gradually reduce the old feed and slowly increase the new feed.
- Feed high quality – It is not only important that your roughage is of good quality, but the concentrates you feed as well. Make sure to store the feed in a dry place where it is free from pests. Do not feed moldy or dusty roughage and make sure it is free from poisonous plants (such as ragwort).
- Keep everything clean – If food residues remain in your buckets or feed scoop, they can become moldy. Especially if you add oils or other liquid supplements to your concentrates, the buckets and scoops can quickly become dirty and sticky. So clean them regularly.
- Prevent boredom – In nature, a horse is busy eating or foraging for about 16 hours a day. It is not always possible for horses that are stabled to eat for 16 hours, but it is important to create the most natural situation possible. You can do this by offering sufficient or unlimited roughage. If necessary, the roughage can be offered in a slow feeder, so that the horse is kept busy for longer. You could also use straw as bedding, so the horse always has something to nibble on. Make sure that the horse does not eat too much straw, this could cause colic.
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