Horse Diet Basics
What are the basic crops or grain a horse involved in a horse's diet? I heard everything from hay to apples lol, can anyone just run through a summary of what the major bulk of a horses diet should be, how often one should switch between hay and grass etc. and what about any special fruits or vegetables horses really like?
Sorry, totally new to this.
A horses main diet should be hay unless pasture is available. My kids are on hay all winter and grass come May or June. I start them on the grass diet gradually over a week or 2. If you let them out on grass all at once they get sick. Same with any feed change with horses, they get upset tummys easy :)
I feed a pelleted feed, but that is determined by the individual horse, work load, health etc. They sell mixed feeds, sweet (usually molassas) pellet, all different types. I like simple and my horses are all easy keepers so don't need a lot of extra. Check out purinas web site it has some good info on it. http://horse.purinamills.com/
My kids don't like people food so no apples or carrots for them, they just spit them out, although Vida does like hard candy. I carry it in my saddle bag for myself and she always wants a piece.
like vida said, if a horse has access to plenty of hay and or grass, then not a lot of other stuff is needed. every horse is different so it may take you some time to figure out what hes like. some are easy to keep fat and others take extra hay and hard feeds to keep well
its really up to your situation as to how long your horse will eat fresh grass v hay etc for example; my horses are at a pony club with 60acres of lush, green grass. we have just moved there a week ago and already they are showing signs of gaining weight. before the only roughage they got was hay and they were always hungry for their hard feeds. now they are getting their fill every day they are less keen to eat at breakfast and dinner time. soon i will cut them down to one hard feed a day instead of two and they will only get the weight gain type foods like pellets, rice bran, lucerne chaffe, mollasses and supplements. their hay has already been cut down from nearly a bale of hay a day each to about 4 biscuits each. by next week they will probably just get a biscuit or two a day.
so it really does depend. if you have a stable they go into at night you could have your horse grazing all day and then in its stall at night with hay. or it could stay in pasture all the time. it all just depends on you and how your horse holds his weight :)
As everyone else said hay, free-choice salt, and mineral/vitamin mix (some people go for free-choice block). I do own mix of oats, boss, and little corn mixed with pelleted vitamins/minerals (otherwise they won't eat just pellets). As for carrots and apples... Well... They love them, so I give those too as treats. :)
The majority of a horse's diet should be forage--grass, grass hay or legume hay (alfalfa). Horses need 1.5%-3% of their body weight in forage a day to maintain GI health. This means that for the "average 1000 lb horse" you should feed a minimum of 15 lbs of hay per day. If your horse is a hard keeper, pregnant, nursing, working then the amount of hay per day should be increased.
Concentrates are used to provide energy or to meet nutrient requirements when hay/grass is not enough. They should serve to balance out the nutrient content of the diet. Many grains have been used to provide energy/nutrition for horses in the past, but we are coming more and more to realize that grains are not the best choice for horses because they generally are a source of carbs/starchs which get turned into sugar in short order by the body and lead to spikes in blood glucose and then a drastic drop--basically a sugar rush and then that subsequent draggy feeling. These feeds are particularly poor choices for horses with certain metabolic, muscular and other disease conditions. Horse's bodies are also not designed to digest grains so they are not the most efficient source for nutrients or energy and their use increases the risk of digestive upset such as colic or gastric ulcers. And the risk of these issues (especially colic) increases with the amount of grains/supplemental feeds fed. Many horse feed producers have started offering forage-based supplemental feeds in the form of pellets or extruded feeds that are alfalfa or beet pulp based with added ingredients to provide a balanced nutrient profile. They are also coming out with "ration balancers" which are very nutrient dense forage based products that supply protein, vitamins and minerals to balance the nutrient profile of forages that are fed- ie grass or grass hays and legumes. These ration balancers are fed at a rate of between 1 and 3 lbs per day. They can be used for horses up to moderate performance, but for horses in hard work they may not provide enough digestible energy to meet the horse's needs.
Treats--just like our kids our horses just don't need tons of sugary treats and while you may consider apples and carrots as "healthy foods", they are also sources of carbs/starchs that get turned into sugars. In moderation, apples and carrots are fine for most horses but if your horse has a metabolic condition which requires strict dietary regulation then apples and carrots aren't a good choice.
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