Anyone who looks after a horse should have a good understanding of what they need to do to ensure the welfare of their much-loved pet — and crucial to the needs of any animal is the right food and diet.
But the feeding requirements of a pet horse are actually a little more complex than you might think, so how can you be sure that you’re feeding your horse nothing but the best? To help meet all your equine friend’s nutritional requirements, check out the information and tips in our handy horse feeding guide below.
Top 5 Horse Food and Diet Tips
- High in fibre. Over time, horses have evolved to eat a diet that’s high in fibre, so make sure this is a main feature of your feeding program. Horses also eat very differently to humans – they prefer slow food over fast food. While we tend to eat set ‘meals’ throughout the day, horses have evolved to be constant grazers throughout the day. With this in mind, horses eat low-energy food for several hours each day and night, and they’re designed to consume and process large quantities of low-calorie grass. Feeding your horse a diet that is too rich in calories can lead to a wide range of gastrointestinal and also behavioural problems, so should be avoided at all costs. Make sure that pasture grass and hay form the base of your horse’s diet.
- Choosing a feed. Selecting the right feed for your horse can be a confusing and even overwhelming experience. There really is a quite daunting number of feeds and supplements available, so how do you know which one is the best for your horse? The truth is that there are a number of factors that can influence which feed is right for your pet, including their age, what they’re used for, their body weight and condition, and whether or not they have any medical issues. For example, young horses need nutrients such as protein to promote healthy growth, while older animals need certain vitamins and minerals to help them maintain body condition. Make sure to choose a feed that’s appropriate for the unique nutritional needs of your horse or pony.
- Be wary of overfeeding. Just like a toddler who’s just had his first taste of chocolate, horses don’t necessarily always want to eat what’s best for them. While your horse may love chowing down on a high-calorie feed, eating too much of it can lead to obesity and a range of health problems. It’s important to always be careful not to overfeed your horse, but remember that horses involved in training and competitive sports may require a little bit more energy from their diet than other animals.
- Don’t forget about water. Clean, fresh water is a crucial part of your horse’s diet. You need to ensure that your horse has access to an adequate supply of fresh water 24 hours a day, from a container that’s kept at ground level. First-time owners are often slightly taken aback to discover just how much fluid a thirsty horse can get through — horses drink an average of between 30 and 50 litres of water a day, although this may increase when the mercury rises during summer and the horse sweats more. Water is essential for your horse’s digestive system to function properly, so make sure your pet can always wet her whistle whenever she wants.
- Ask your vet for help. The last piece of advice to remember is that you should never be afraid to ask for help. Working out what you need to do to meet your horse’s nutritional requirements can be a daunting task, especially for first-time owners, so don’t hesitate to ask your local horse vet for assistance if you’re unsure of anything. For specialised diet advice, an equine nutritionist can tell you everything you need to know to meet your horse or pony’s dietary requirements.
Ensuring that all your horse’s nutritional requirements are met is one of the most important jobs for all horse owners, so don’t just assume that a bit if grass to graze on is all your pet needs to stay fit and healthy. Follow these simple horse feeding tips and you’ll be well on your way to understanding all the basics of the right diet for your horse.