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Horse Health- Feeding Tips for Horses Proper feeding is vital for overall horse health. Poor nutrition can cause problems like increased risk for infectious diseases, reduced performance, lameness, and colic. Apart from water, horses require minerals, vitamins, energy, and protein in their diet. Proper balance and quantity of the nutrients is vital. 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. With this in mind, pasture is the most common food for horses. Most mature horses doing moderate or light work will fare okay with just pasture as long as they have quality forage and adequate 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 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. You can accurately estimate the weight of a horse with a height tape, which can be found at many horse feed stores. You can measure exact hay weights with economical hanging or quality loading scales. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses on grass or hay diets, or a combination of both need salt for balancing their rations. Based on age, forage fed, and performance level, horses may also require mineral or vitamin supplements, or protein horse supplements. Most stores now sell protein or mineral or vitamin supplements for horses on forage diets. 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 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 need to be fed forage at a rate of one or one and a half pounds per 100 pounds body weight each day for proper function of the digestive tract.