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Horse Health- Feeding Tips for Horses Proper feeding is vital for overall horse health. Poor diet can cause issues such as reduced performance, lameness, colic and increased risk of catching infectious diseases. In addition to water, horses need protein, vitamins, energy, and minerals. The right amount and balance of these nutrients is critical. Nutritional excesses, deficiencies and imbalances can all adversely affect the health and performance of a horse. When deciding what, how much, and how to feed your horse, it’s important to bear in mind that horses have small stomachs, which limits the amount of food they can take at one time. The digestive tract of a horse naturally processes smaller food rations; thus, horses usually nibble on any food almost continuously. With this in mind, pasture is the most common food for horses. Most mature sports horses doing moderate to light work will do just fine on pasture alone as long as they get quality forage and sufficient grazing time. If there’s no pasture or pasture is insufficient, hay is the next best option. If fed on hay alone, most horses will usually require at least 1.5-2 pounds of quality grass hay, like fescue or orchard grass, or timothy, per 100 pounds body weight every day. If you’re supplementing pasture with hay feed, adjust the amount of hay to keep the horse in tiptop shape.
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A horse is said to be in the right condition when you can’t see its ribs but you can easily feel them. The weight of a horse can be estimated by using a height tape, available at many feed stores. With economical hanging or quality loading scales, it’s possible to measure exact hay weights. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses fed on grass, hay or a hay and grass combination require salt for balancing their diets. Depending on age, performance and forage fed, horses can also require protein horse supplements, and/or mineral/vitamin supplements. Most stores now stock vitamin/mineral/protein supplements for horses fed on forage. These contain fewer calories and are normally given at one or two pounds per day for a full-grown horse. Due to limits on the feed that can be consumed, feeding forage alone can’t meet the nutrient needs of nursing mares, pregnant mares, growing foals, and hardworking foals. In such cases, a grain/concentrate should be fed to horses to supplement diets. Feed horses the right amounts and types of grain/concentrate depending on manufacturer recommendations. If you want to change their diet, please do it slowly. Horses still require a forage diet at 1-1.5 pounds per a hundred pounds of weight daily for normal working order of the digestive tract.