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Horse Health- Tips to Feed Your Horse Proper diet is very important for your horse’s overall health. Poor diet can cause issues such as reduced performance, lameness, colic and increased risk of catching infectious diseases. As well as water, horses require vitamins, minerals, protein and energy in their diet. It’s critical that these nutrients be in the right amount and balance. Nutritional imbalances, deficiencies and excesses all can negatively affect a horse’s performance and health. When planning on what to feed a horse, how much to feed, and how to do it, you should remember that horses have little stomachs, which reduces the rations they consume at any given time. A horse’s digestive tract is used to processing small portions of food continuously; hence, horses naturally nibble almost constantly. Bearing this in mind, the main food for horses is pasture. 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 inadequate pasture or none at all, the next best alternative is hay. If feeding hay only, supply your horse with at least 2 pounds of high quality hay grass, like timothy, or orchard grass (fescue), per 100 pounds body weight each day. If you supplement pasture with hay, then you should adjust the quantity of hay to keep your animal in proper condition.
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A horse is adjudged to be in great shape when the ribs can’t be seen but may be felt easily. The weight of a horse can be estimated by using a height tape, available at many feed stores. You can measure accurate hay weights using top loading scales or economical hanging. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses feeding on diets of hay, grass or a combination of the two need salt in order to balance their rations. Depending on age, performance and forage fed, horses can also require protein horse supplements, and/or mineral/vitamin supplements. Most feed stores now sell protein/mineral/vitamin supplements for horses that live on forage diets. These are low in calories and are usually fed at a rate of one or two pounds every day for an adult horse. Due to restrictions on the quantity of food consumed, forage only might not supply adequate nutrient needs for growing foals, nursing mares, pregnant mares, and hardworking horses. In these cases, the horses’ diets should be supplemented by a grain/concentrate. Feed them proper types and quantities of concentrate/grain following the manufacturer’s 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.