Following on from a previous article we wrote about feeding advice for first time horse owners, we thought we’d cover a bit more on the topic of feed and diet as it is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and happy animal.
Much more than just putting food into the body, horses need to be feed a balanced diet of bulk (hay, grass or chaff) and feed concentrate. And you must be careful to observe the ratio between bulk and concentrate. Bulk, which is primarily made up of hay, must form about 2/3 of the diet for the proper function of the digestive system – supplemented with water. You should then make up the remaining 1/3 of their food with a suitable concentrate. These concentrates provide extra energy and protein but if you are giving them high energy foods, you must ensure they are given the exercise to burn it off.
Below is a list of concentrate feed you may choose to feed to your horse alongside their daily bulk.
Coarse Mix – a mixed feed of oats, barley and maize, combined with other ingredients. This is a good all round concentrate that contains a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, oils, minerals and vitamins and can be fed as necessary to maintain weight, condition and bloom. (excellent for horses at rest or in light work).
Bran – a product of wheat, after flour has been extracted. A daily feed of 2lb (0.9kg) is sufficient to help keep your horse regular or if they are struggling with a case of colic. Some horse owners also choose to add bran into the diet of a horse that is prefoaling. During the colder months, you can cook up a bowl of bran mash, where you mix bran with boiling water and a selection of diced apples, sliced carrots or a pull of molasses. A delicious winter treat!
Oats – Of all the grains, oats have the highest fibre content and lowest energy. Oats contain fats, starches and a good percentage of protein (11%). While in the past oats were the staple feed for equines, modern horse use changed the role of the animal and now too much oats can lead to excessive excitability and health problems.
Flaked Maize – high in energy but lacking protein and somewhat indigestible. Can be mixed with beans, but don’t feed to low-activity horses as they will put on weight easily. Due to its hard structure, it must be sufficiently chewed for the nutrients to be sufficiently digested.
Nuts – feed nuts are a general feed that can also be used as a concentrate. They vary in protein according to the purpose required and are generally of low energy value. They provide a blend of different fibres that offer excellent digestion benefits to keep the hind gut healthy.
Barley – less heating than oats and, when boiled, is good for putting on condition. Many people prefer giving barley to horses over oats because they are less likely to trigger boisterous behaviour by excessive energy. However, they do need more preparation time as you will need to boil them before feeding them to you horse.
Linseed – Another feed that needs boiling before feeding. However, linseed is high in protein (26%) and an excellent conditioner.
Sugar Beet – sugar beet can also be feed to horses, but with care. If it is fed dry, it swells in the stomach and could cause issues. Therefore both pulp and nuts must be soaked for a minimum of twelve hours before feeding. It is high in fibre and sugar but its protein quality is poor.
You may also choose to supplement the daily feed of your horse with the following:
Minerals – can be added into your feed concentrate to help control constant body changes.
Garlic powder – a well-proven, natural remedy without side effects. It is a useful food supplement.
Limestone flour – feeding 2oz (57g) limestone flour daily will correct any adverse calcium/phosphorus ratio.
Molasses – molasses and molassine meal provide easily assimilated energy.
Cod liver oil – cod liver oil is a conditioner and good for the horses coat. Great for humans too.