Keeping your horse healthy is the first concern of every new owner. It’s likely that you have a grasp of the basic concept regarding the equine diet, but it’s crucial to know more when it comes to horse nutrition. Here’s some information that should help:
The Staple Diet
The staple diet of horses is simple: hay and grain. Horses will consume up to 60 pounds of hay in a day, ideally provided in small amounts to prevent digestive problems. Most horse owners suggest giving hay before grain to control the feeding of the horse. If you serve them grain immediately, there’s a good chance that they will eat too much too fast, resulting to colic or other digestive issues.
Food to Avoid
It stands to reason that human food should be kept away from horses. By this, one is referring to hot dogs, burgers, and the like – all of which have gone through tremendous processing.
Vegetables for Horses
Vegetables are recommended as part of a horse’s diet, providing vitamins and minerals that are generally not found in hay and grain. Note though that NOT all vegetables are foods for horses. Avoid giving rhubarb, onion, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and anything that belongs in the nightshade family.
Here’s a list of vegetables that you can safely offer:
Fruits for Feeding
Fruits make the best treats but like vegetables, it’s important to identify the bad from the good. Avoid feeding your horse avocado and potatoes. Instead, opt for the healthy fruits mentioned below:
Always remove the seeds or the pits from fruits since this can cause choking. Despite what you see in the movies, these fruits should be sliced into small pieces before feeding them to the horse.
Sugar Cubes and Commercial Treats
Another common treat although not a healthy one, you can offer your horse a sugar cube if nothing else is on hand. However, it’s strongly encouraged to use sweet fruits – like an apple – instead of sugar cubes. As for commercial treats, they’re also a great substitute for fruits and vegetables, provided that you feed them sparingly. The only upside of commercial treats is that you can store them longer as opposed to fresh fruits.
The Rule on Treats
Treats are a great way to reward your horse for a job well done, but they’re not something that should be given on a frequent basis. Once or twice a day is a good idea, provided that your horse also gets sufficient exercise and lots of vitamins and minerals from their staple diet. Keep in mind that like all other animals, horses have an ideal weight that must be maintained to ensure ongoing health.
If you feel like your horse is not getting enough, it’s perfectly alright to offer more in the form of supplements. Note, however, that there are literally dozens of supplements for horses nowadays so make sure to consult your veterinarian beforehand.
Consider Health and Activity
As with humans, your horse’s diet should depend largely on activity and age. Older horses may need their food ‘souped’ as the molars start to deteriorate. If your horse is particularly athletic, he’ll need to eat larger amounts of food with high vitamins and minerals. Your horse is defined athletic if he trains more than 5 times in seven days.
When you’re not sure whether the food is good or bad for your horse – it’s best to err on the side of caution and do NOT feed the item to the animal. It goes without saying that fresh water must always be in steady supply. Observe the general demeanor of your horse and the frequency and consistency of their bowel movement. A healthy horse should eliminate every two hours.