ALL ABOUT FEEDING
From the book THE HORSE LOVER'S BIBLE
In recent years there have been huge developments in the science behind equine nutrition, and this has led to more information and a greater range of products.
While this is beneficial, it can also make deciding what to feed your horse confusing. If in doubt, consult an equine nutritionist, but bear in mind that many nutritionists work directly for feed companies, and their advice will be to recommend one of their products! Having said that, most top feed companies offer similar products, which promise the same results, only market them under different names.
Despite the science, feeding basically comes down to common sense. Proper feeding is vital to the fundamental health of the horse, and also allows the individual to reach its maximum athletic ability. Overfeeding is as dangerous as underfeeding, and finding the right balance is the key.
In theory, a horse should obtain all the vitamins and minerals it needs from good grass.
BUT AS OTHER ARTICLES ON THE SUBJECT SHOW….. WE HAVE MUCH POLLUTION TODAY, IN MANY WAYS, THAT MAKE THE GRASS NOT AS IT ONCE WAS - Keith Hunt
There are three functions that feeding should cover:
Keeping the horse in a healthy condition. When weight loss or weight gain occurs, the level of feeding is not correct.
Growth and repair
Enabling the body to renew and repair tissue and cells during growth, normal wear and tear, and build muscle.
Providing the horse with the "fuel" to work.
LOOKING AT MY HORSE GOLDIE, YOU CAN SEE I'VE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP HER IN TIP-TOP SHAPE - THROUGH THE FOODS I'VE GIVEN HER BESIDES GRASS, AND GOOD EXERCISE - Keith Hunt
The Feed Room
The feed room must be secure, free from dust and moisture, and able to be barricaded against any uninvited equine guests. Ideally, it should be easily accessible and close to the stables. It is preferable to have a water supply including a sink, but if this is not possible, then situate your feed room near an outside tap. The room needs to be vermin-proof, horse-proof and insulated. If you have to store bags of feed, keep them off the floor on pallets; however, it is better to bring in what you need as you need it, as feeds have a shelf life.
Each horse's feed program should be clearly marked — whiteboards or blackboards work well — and any changes made to the diet must be noted on the board. In busy yards with lots of horses, each horse's stall should be labeled with the name of the horse, its feeding ration and any other relevant information (allergic to oats, etc.) to cut down on the chances of a horse receiving the wrong feed.
One person should be responsible for overseeing the feeding — making up feeds, ordering feed, monitoring individual diets and maintaining the feed room. This cuts down on any confusion.
The earliest evidence of supplementing horse
feed with grain dates to 800 BC. The Assyrians
first fed barley using it to boost the energy of
their war horses.
BARELY IS A SUPER NUTRITIOUS GRAIN - Keith Hunt
Keep feeding simple and methodical and,
most importantly, consider the needs of the
MATTERS AFFECTING INDIVIDUAL REQUIREMENTS
The bigger the horse, the more food that's needed.
Some horses are more excitable than others. Horses that live on nervous energy can find it hard to keep weight on.
How much, how often and how hard.
Age and Sex
Youngsters, seniors, lactating or pregnant mares, and stallions during breeding season require special feeding.
The horse expends more energy in the winter just to stay warm so it will need more food.
Arabians, Quarter Horses, many pony breeds, and often warmblood breeds are "good doers": they convert their food highly efficiently and maintain their weight well on smaller rations.
MY GODIE IS A REGISTERED QUARTER HORSE, AND INDEED SHE KEEPS IN VERY GOOD SHAPE, NOW COMING TO BE 16 ON MARCH 27 2016 - Keith Hunt
RULES OF FEEDING
The horse should have free access to water at all times apart from right before or right after hard work.
Make changes to the diet very gradually; when introducing a new feed you should do so over at least a month to allow the microbial culture to adapt.
Feed according to the individual's requirements.
Feed the correct ratio of roughage to concentrate (grain and grain byproducts).
Always weigh your feed, never "guesstimate" amounts or feed by the coffee can!
Feed quality feeds.
Never feed a meal that is over 4 pounds (1.8 kg) in weight.
Feed little and often, allowing at least four hours between feedings.
Feed at regular intervals and establish a feeding routine.
Allow at least one hour (and preferably more) after feeding and before working. Never feed a horse directly after work.
Always feed moistened feeds.
Feed salt as a supplement, or supply a salt lick, especially during the summer.
Feed succulents whenever possible.
Do not keep soaked beet pulp longer than a few days, and less than this in extreme heat.
Ideally feed the horse in a rubber bucket on the ground — this is the most natural position for a horse to eat in.
Clearly label your feed bins so that there is no confusion between feedstuffs that may look similar, i.e., horse and pony nuts and unsoaked beet pulp pellets.
Keep all feed receptacles clean, and wash mangers after every feeding.
Always finish all the feed in the feed bins before adding more on top.
The Feed Room
The feed room must be horse-and vermin-proof.
Keep written charts of every horse's feed ration.
Keep feed sacks in vermin-proof bins (old chest freezers work well).
Alternatively store off the ground on pallets.
If possible have a tap and sink in the feed room.
Make sure all feed bags and supplements are clearly labeled.
Introduce new feeds slowly.
It helps to install a cat!
Try to keep one person in charge of feeds and the feed room to cut down on confusion.
Keep a large sign up with notice of any horse's allergies.
Label stables with the name and feed ration of each horse.
Methods of Feeding
The horse as a grazing animal naturally eats with its head down, and studies have shown that by eating in this way, its teeth actually wear more evenly. If possible, feed your horse from the ground. Concentrates can be offered in heavy rubber feed pans. If the horse is inclined to paw and scatter its food, then place the pan in an old tire. If using a bucket, stick to the heavy rubber type. Though initially more expensive, rubber is more durable than plastic. Remove any handles from buckets to prevent the risk of a foot becoming caught. Never tip the grain on the ground to feed, as much is wasted in this way.
If you prefer to feed using a manger, the best design is the corner variety. It must be removable for daily cleaning, and free from any sharp edges. Fit your manger at a sensible height for the height of the horse. Many modern internal stalls have
sliding mangers that allow you to pour the feed in from outside the stall, and rotate the manger inward. These can be useful, although some designs do not have removable troughs, which makes them hard to clean.
When feeding grain to a large number of horses in the field, place your feed pans a long way apart. If feeding out of long troughs, make sure that you use at least two to three depending on the number of horses. They will generally sort themselves out so that everyone eats. If a horse is not able to eat due to bullying, or has special requirements, it will need to be separated from the rest to feed.
Always hang haynets high to prevent the chance of a caught foot; bear In mind that an empty net will hang lower than a full one.
To minimize dust spores, hay should be soaked
when fed to the stabled horse. Only soak hay for up
to 20 minutes — any longer than this and nutrients
will be leached out. Old milk crates work well for
draining the hay after it has been soaked.
THIS MAY BE NECESSARY FOR SOME HORSES BUT FOR MOST, BEING FED GOOD CLEAN HAY, IT IS JUST ABOUT NEVER DONE, NOR DEEDED - Keith Hunt
Keep troughs turned upside down after feeding to prevent them from filling up with water.
Hay for the stabled horse should be soaked, and is most efficiently fed in small-holed haynets. These make the horse work harder to get the hay, which makes the hay ration last longer. These nets also cut down on waste, and minimize the chance of a horse getting its foot caught. It is possible to buy and install low-level troughs for feeding hay in the stable. These allow a horse to eat with a natural stance, but can be difficult to clean. There is also a new design of hay feeder for the stalls that fits into the corner and is shaped like an upside-down cone. It also allows a horse to eat with its head down. It is made from sturdy plastic and has no sharp edges or corners. It is easy to install and works well. Some versions have drainage holes in the bottom, which allow you to feed wet hay.
Avoid hayracks in the stall; hay and dust will fall into the eyes causing irritation. They also take up a lot of space and increase the chance of injury. Feeding hay from the ground is good for the horse, but it does result in a lot of waste and will get kicked around the stall. In the field, feeding hay on the ground is quite effective, although there will still be some waste. Feed in small piles set a good distance apart, and put out a pile for each horse, plus one extra. Hayracks in the field have similar problems to those in the barn, and there is a danger of crowding around them, with some horses being pushed out. Round bale racks where you put out a whole bale at a time are labor-saving, but not ideal. Avoid large bales; it is impossible to tell the quality of the hay in the middle. There is also a danger of mold, and of small rodents being baled; this creates a very serious risk of botulism, which can be fatal.
Methods of Feeding
Feed at ground level if possible.
Use rubber rather than plastic feed buckets.
Always remove handles from buckets in the stable.
Mangers should be removable.
Keep mangers at a reasonable height for the
Use small-holed haynets.
Hang nets high.
Place piles of hay in the field a long way apart,
and put out the same number of piles as horses,
WITH THE LARGE ROUND BAILS, YOU ROLL THEM OUT, WHICH IN MY YEARS OF SEEING DONE, CREATES NO PROBLEM IN THE MAIN, AS THE DISTANCE ROLLED OUT IS QUITE LONG - Keith Hunt
The horse's diet must include all of the following elements: water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. A deficiency or an excess of any of these will greatly affect the health and well-being of the horse.
This is the most important aspect of feeding and also the most overlooked. In extreme cases, a horse can survive for weeks on starvation rations, but only for a couple of days if deprived of water. Water is an essential part of the diet and is fundamental to the body's functioning. Horses must have a good, clean supply of water at all times, other than directly before and after hard work.
Horses will drink more during the summer, and a stabled horse will drink more than one kept at grass. Pregnant mares also will need more water. Dehydration causes serious problems in horses, and it is essential to make sure that your horse is drinking properly.
Water tanks must be kept clean and free from leaves, which produce bitter-tasting tannin, and algae, which can contain toxic compounds.
Carbohydrates are a horse's main source of energy and should make up the majority of its diet. There are two types of carbohydrates — simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates, which include sugar, glycogen and starch, are digested in the small intestine and absorbed into the
Horses become accustomed to the taste of their own, local water. If traveling and staying overnight, try using a flavored drink powder in the water to
encourage the horse to drink. Get the horse used to
drinking this at home, before you travel.
Keep tanks and buckets clean.
Take your own water and buckets when traveling; never use "foreign" tanks at show grounds, etc., to avoid the spread of disease.
Always travel with electrolyte supplements to replace the salts lost in sweating, and to prevent dehydration.
Keep water at a moderate temperature — extreme chilling and heat will put the horse off drinking.
Use automatic water dispensers with a measuring gauge on them.
Avoid using sandy-bottomed streams for your water source due to the risk of colic. If using a natural water source, ensure the footing is solid and that there is a large enough access to it to prevent crowding.
If using a tank with a water flow system, catfish or goldfish work wonders at keeping the algae down.
bloodstream. Glucose, a simple sugar, is the major source of energy. It is converted to glycogen in the body, and any excess is converted to fat. One of the main complex carbohydrates is cellulose. This is found in all plants and grasses, and is a horse's major fiber source. Fiber is vital to a healthy digestive tract. Cellulose is broken down by the bacteria and microbial culture living in a horse's hindgut (cecum and large intestine). This microbial culture is extremely important to a horse's health — a sudden change in food, some wormers, and many oral antibiotics upset this delicate balance, which is why changes to the diet must be made slowly. It can be beneficial to put a horse on a course of probiotics following antibiotics. Probiotics help to stabilize the microbial culture.
Another source of a horse's energy, fats, actually contain higher levels of energy than carbohydrates, but are harder to break down. The energy derived from fat is useful in "slow release" instances, such as when a horse is doing slow,
If you are feeding low-quality protein your horse
will have increased urine production, and the urine
will have a strong smell.
steady work. The energy from carbohydrates is "fast release" energy, needed by horses in hard and fast work like jumping and racing. Fats also provide the horse with an insulation layer, and contribute to a healthy coat and skin.
Protein is instrumental in tissue and cell growth and repair, and in muscle building. Proteins are made up of a series of amino acids. Horses need 22 amino acids; 12 are synthesized by the liver and the remaining 10 have to be ingested through the diet — the latter are referred to as "essential amino acids." The "quality" of a protein is determined by how many essential amino acids it contains. However, labels on bags of feed that refer to a protein value are misleading. First, they do not specify the "quality" of the protein, which is important; and second, they refer to a "crude protein value," not the digestible protein. This means that the protein value you are actually feeding your horse is probably less than you think.
A deficiency in any essential amino acid causes major problems. The most common deficiencies are of lysine, methionine and threonine. All straight cereal crops are low in lysine, but mixed horse feeds should be balanced.
Vitamins are present in good, green grass and sunlight, so if your horse has access to both, it should be provided with an adequate vitamin
Biotin as a supplement should be fed along with methionine and sulfur.
supply. Good quality hay also should provide the essential vitamins, and it is now possible to have hay samples tested to determine their nutritive values. Horses that are in very hard work, and pregnant or lactating mares, will benefit from a vitamin supplement. It is possible to overdose on vitamins, so exercise caution when supplementing feed, and always feed according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. The water-soluble vitamins are B1 through B12, and vitamin C. These vitamins are metabolized in the hindgut, and horses receiving an adequate fiber content in their diets should be in no danger of a deficiency. The main fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. Horses kept on good, green grass with access to sunlight should not be deficient, but horses that are stabled for much of the time may be in danger of a vitamin deficiency. Fat-soluble vitamins can cause problems if fed in excess, so always consult a veterinarian or nutritionist before supplementing the diet.
There are macro and microminerals. Macro-minerals are required in a higher volume and are measured as percentages or parts per hundred (pph). The main ones are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Micro-minerals are required in much smaller quantities and are measured in parts per million (ppm). The main microminerals are selenium, zinc, copper, iodine, iron, molybdenum, manganese, cobalt, fluorine and chromium. The best way to supplement the diet with these minerals is by using a mineral block.
Different Types of Feed
There are two different ways to feed, either by using conventional feeds or by using compound feeds. Compound feeds can either be in nut or pellet form, or found as a coarse mix, also called "sweet feed."
The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is vital to the
healthy well-being of the horse, and must be 2:1.
Many cereals are high in phosphorus, especially
oats. If the 2:1 balance is upset, the phosphorus
actively prevents normal uptake of calcium, which
has severe side effects. Horses on high cereal diets
must be fed a calcium supplement — limestone
flour is effective and economical.
Compound feeds are designed to provide all the basic nutrient values that your horse requires, including its vitamin and mineral intake. The feeds are graduated and specific to different levels of work, i.e., a competition or racehorse mix will be of obvious higher energy content than a leisure mix for the horse in light-to-medium work. If you are planning on using a compound feed, make sure you select the right grade of feed for the level of work your horse is in.
Compound feeds are convenient but expensive. They have the obvious advantage of being nutritionally worked out for you. Providing you feed according to the guidelines, your horse should receive a balanced diet. If you have any specific questions, most feed companies employ equine nutritionists who are generally very helpful.
Conventional feeds are the old-fashioned cereals and grains. If feeding using conventional feeds, you will need to work out the exact nutrient content of each individual element.
One of the most popular grains, oats are an excellent feed, particularly for horses in hard work. A good batch of oats should consist of four parts carbohydrate to one part protein and one part fat. In general, oats contain 12 percent protein, and are high in fiber. They are a valuable energy food. Oats are high in phosphorus and low in calcium, so if feeding them, it is necessary to add a calcium supplement. Oats have a hard outer husk, which accounts for their fiber content. For the horse to get the most nutritional benefit from oats, this husk should be cracked open; however, once the oats have been cracked, or rolled, their shelf life is limited to approximately three weeks. Feeding whole oats is best avoided. Huskless oats have recently been developed. These have a higher energy density than normal oats but lack the benefit of the fiber. Caution must be used to avoid overfeeding.
Less palatable than oats, barley is still a useful feed. It can be fed rolled, flaked, cooked, boiled or micronized, but never whole. Cooked barley is more digestible and can be a good feed to tempt a horse with a poor appetite. It has a similar protein value to oats, approximately 12 percent, and a good fiber content. Barley is often added to compound feeds to "pad" them out.
Wheat is not suitable for horses because it has a high gluten content, which is thought to contribute to impaction colic.
Electrolytes are an essential combination
of minerals required for normal bodily
function. Electrolytes are lost when the horse sweats
excessively through work or stress.
They must then be replaced through feeding
an electrolyte supplement.
Corn, or maize, has a higher energy value than oats, but is lower in protein and fiber. It is also a fattening feed. It should be fed cooked and flaked or micronized to make it more digestible; it should not be fed whole.
VERY FEW PLACES USE CORN; I PERSONALLY HAVE NEVER SEEN OR HEARD OF ANYONE USING CORN - Keith Hunt
A byproduct of the milling process of wheat, bran is useful when fed in small quantities. It should consist of large, flat, creamy-colored flakes and be free from dust. It is high in fiber and phosphorus, but a calcium supplement should be fed with it. If fed dry, bran has a binding effect; if fed damp, it is supposed to be a laxative. There is, however, little scientific evidence to back these assertions! A warm bran mash does make a tempting feed for a horse that has lost its appetite, and can be a good feed for sick or resting horses.
This is a valuable source of fiber and is almost always enjoyed by the horse. It can be a useful feed to tempt poor eaters. Beet pulp must be soaked before it is fed. It comes in pulp or pellet form, and each will vary according to the time it needs to be soaked. The traditional beet pulp had to be soaked for 24 hours before feeding, but there are now quick-soak varieties that require much less soaking time. It is also possible to buy unmolassed beet pulp, which is useful for horses on a calorie-restricted diet. Beet pulp has the added advantage of being high in calcium and low in phosphorus, which helps to address the imbalance if feeding it with oats. Once soaked, beet pulp will spoil quite quickly, and should be used within a few days.
HOW TO MAKE A THE PERFECT BRAN MASH
1-1.5 pounds (0.7-0.9 kg) bran
half a scoop of soaked beet pulp, or 3 tablespoons
(45 ml) of thick, dark molasses, or 3 tablespoons
(45 ml) of applesauce.
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt
2 chopped (lengthways) carrots, or chopped apple
hot tap water
Mix the first four ingredients in a bucket. Slowly stir in the hot water until the consistency is on the wetter side of damp.
Cover the bucket with a cloth and allow to steep for five minutes.
Check the middle of the mash to make sure it is not too hot, and present to your grateful horse.
Note: Never feed your horse more than 1-1.5 pounds (0.5-0.7 kg) of bran a day. Avoid feeding bran to youngsters until they are over 4 years old.
Highly nutritious, being a good source of protein and oil, linseed is an excellent way to put condition on a horse, although it should only be fed in small amounts. Before feeding it must be soaked overnight, and then boiled and simmered until the seeds burst open — this can take up to eight hours. If linseed is not boiled it is poisonous. It is now possible to buy ready-prepared linseed oil, which is convenient to use.
ONE STUD FARM I WORKED ON IN ENGLAND FED LINSEED, YES IT MUST BE COOKED FOR UP TO 8 HOURS; WE ADDED OATS; AND THE HORSES LOVED IT; - Keith Hunt
Molasses is derived from the sugarcane and is a sweet addition to the diet. It is often added to compound feeds and to chaff, but can be added separately if feeding conventional feedstuffs. Almost all horses will readily eat molasses and it makes a good cover for slipping wormer or medicated powders into the feed.
Peas and Beans
Peas and beans are very "heating" and should only be fed in small amounts and to horses in hard and fast work. They must always be split before being fed.
A 4:1 mixture of chopped hay and straw, chaff is not commonly used in the United States. It is a valuable source of fiber when added to a meal, and also acts to slow the horse down, preventing it bolting its food and increasing the amount it chews. Chaff can be bought with molasses.
The addition of a tablespoon of either cod-liver oil or vegetable oil to the meal keeps the coat shiny and is a good source of vitamins.
These are densely compressed small cubes of good-quality hay that is primarily alfalfa. Cubes can be added to the feed to act in a similar capacity as chaff. They should be well soaked so that they start to crumble. They also can be useful for old horses that are not able to eat conventional hay, and for horses that have dust allergies — providing they have been soaked.
The old expression "full of beans" used to describe
a lively individual came from the practice of
feeding peas and beans to workhorses to give them
Any hay is only as good as the pasture it was cut from, and the way in which it was baled!
Making hay is a fine art, especially where farmers have to constantly battle unpredictable weather. It is important to learn how to recognize good hay from poor, and any hay should be carefully evaluated before you buy it. It is now possible to have nutrient value readings taken on some hay, which cuts out the margin of error.
The price of hay will fluctuate dramatically depending on the weather and subsequent crop — cheap hay is often cheap for a reason! It is better to pay a little more and get good quality.
New hay is rich and should be allowed to sit for several months before being fed. Some farmers put up "seed" hay. This is specially seeded hay that generally has a higher nutritional value than meadow hay (cut from permanent pastures). The grasses tend to be harder, which the horse likes, but are less digestible.
Alfalfa hay is popular. Alfalfa is a legume and very high in protein — it is so high in protein that the horse is not able to utilize all of the protein properly, and much of it is passed in the urine. Alfalfa hay is rich and green; horses love it, but it must be fed sparingly and should only be fed to broodmares or horses in hard and fast work. It should not form the entire hay ration but should be fed in addition to regular grass hay.
HOW TO EVALUATE HAY
It should smell clean and sweet.
There should be no visible signs of mold or dust.
Reach into the middle of the bale and remove a handful of hay to check it.
The bales should not be warm, which would indicate fermentation and mold.
There should be no obvious signs of weeds.
Small grass hay bales should weigh 30-50 pounds (14-23 kg) — if they are more than this check that the hay is not wet and moldy.
The protein content in hay will vary according to
the different grasses, but all hay will start to lose its
nutritional value after a year.
Haylage, also known as silage, is the topic of much debate, and has both advantages and disadvantages. It is currently more widely used in Europe than North America, although it is starting to become popular in California. After cutting the pasture, instead of being allowed to dry as with conventional hay, the grass is baled while in a semiwilted state and placed in airtight plastic bags.
The grasses use up the remaining oxygen in the bag and undergo fermentation, which lowers the pH value. When it reaches pH 5, the fermentation stops and the grass remains in a suspended state.
Among the advantages of haylage is its higher nutritional value due to leaf preservation and nitrate reduction. It is also dust-free, and therefore great for horses with allergies. It is easier for farmers to bale, cuts down on baling time, and is clean to store. Maybe most importantly, horses like it.
On the minus side, if the bags are punctured and oxygen reaches the grasses, a secondary fermentation occurs, which results in the formation of dangerous mold. It can't be examined before purchasing, so the buyer has no way of determining the quality of the grasses.
The moisture content of the grass is crucial when baling haylage. If it is too wet, feed value will be lost, and if too dry, the fermentation process is reduced, and mold is likely to occur.
Haylage in small bales is very expensive, and large bales are only suitable for yards with lots of horses. It has a short shelf life, and once opened needs to be used quickly.
One of the myths about haylage is that you should feed less of it than your conventional hay ration, based on its higher nutrient value. However, haylage has a very high water content, so its weight is disproportionately high compared to dry hay. As a rough guide, aim to feed the same amount of haylage in bulk (not weight) as you would feed dry hay; this will compensate for the difference between dry and wet weight.
IN MY EXPERIENCE FEW HORSE FARMS/RANCHES USE HAYLAGE, BECAUSE OF THE POINTS MENTIONED ABOVE THAT ARE TOO UNDEPENDABLE - Keith Hunt
Haylage should be baled when the grass has a 45-50 percent moisture content, as opposed to hay that is baled with 15-20 percent moisture content.
HAY OR HAYLAGE?
Many horse owners find haylage easier to store and use than hay, and it cuts down on their working time. However, when buying, its condition can't be assessed because it is bought sealed.
HENCE FEW, IF ANY, HORSE RANCHES AND BOARDING STABLES USE IT - Keith Hunt
Feeding and Feed
A balanced diet must include water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Water is the most important and most ignored element of feeding.
Horses should have access to water at all times other than directly before or after work.
Always bring electrolytes when traveling long
Carbohydrates are the biggest energy provider
for the horse.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple
Glucose is a simple carbohydrate and is stored
as glycogen; excess glucose is turned into fat.
Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate. It is found in all grass and plants and is the main source of fiber.
Cellulose is broken down by the bacteria and microbial culture of the hindgut.
This microbial culture can be easily upset, i.e., by sudden changes in food and some wormers and oral antibiotics.
Fats have a higher energy value than carbohydrates, but are harder to break down.
Proteins have little energy value but are needed to maintain and repair tissue and cells, and build muscle.
TO BE CONTINUED