Confused by the plethora of different horse feeds?
Not sure which one to buy for your horse or whether you can mix them up?
There is too much advice available online, everyone swearing by their own feeds, it’s so hard to find anything impartial that isn’t trying to flog you a brand.
This is horse feeding simplified.
Fibre is an important part of every horse diet!
There are only three words you need to know when it comes to feeding horses…fibre, fibre and fibre! Horses have evolved to eat long fibre – grass and hay – on a more or less continuous basis. Anything that departs from this peripatetic grazing behaviour starts to compromise their health.
Horses shut in stables for long periods of time without access to hay or turnout develop stable vices such as weaving and cribbing and health issues like gastric ulcers, breathing problems namely Recurrent Airway Obstruction – RAO formerly COPD – and potentially are more prone to life-threatening conditions like colic which is far more prevalent in stable kept horses.
Good gut function
Mobility is required for good gut motility and the small stomach and endless hind gut of the horse is designed to process a huge quantity of long fibre ideally, on the move. But it’s all very well talking about the gold standard but it isn’t always possible or desirable for other reasons to turn out for hours – horse flies, adverse hot and cold weather, lush grass – are just some of the thing that spring to mind.
From the owner’s point of view, it is important to try and mimic the natural lifestyle as much as possible. Horses should always have access to long fibre be it hay or grass. This diet supplies an amazing level of energy for work before additional feed supplementation is required. Horses in light work can have feeds of fibre nuts or soaked fibre pellets to which can be added any supplementation or medications. Horses can work amazing hard on this diet before they need more energy giving and calorific hard feed.
Your horse’s weight is the guide to how much food they need each day which can be split between fibre and grain or other feeds, Use a weigh tape to calculate this or take your horse to the vet and use their weighbridge.
Some feed companies offer yard visits and will weigh and condition score your horse for you but they will only sell their proprietary brand of feed not necessarily offering general and impartial advice. If you are unsure about your horse’s weight, ask a knowledgeable friend or trainer. If you are implementing changes then take photographs every week so you can compare the difference.
Feeding doesn’t have to be complicated
Feeding horses are like feeding people in that it has become incredibly over complicated. Science has its place but most feeding comes down to good old-fashioned horsemanship and a real understanding of how the horse’s digestive system works. You can’t go wrong if you start with fibre, feed mainly fibre and only add anything else in small amounts as necessary.