Horse Health Care Program - Feeding

Home | BooksArticles | Shopping | View Cart | Contact | Site Map | Search

101 Horsekeeping Tips
DVD
How To Think
Like A Horse
Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac
Your Horse Barn DVD
Stablekeeping
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage

Keeping Your Horse Healthy - Part 1
 As appeared in 1998 Horses magazine  

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Mary keeps her two horses at the same boarding stable where you’ve just moved Jones, your new gelding.  Mary’s gelding Blaze has heaves, requires specialized shoeing that costs twice the normal fee, gets special feed for his dry skin, and each day has a 50/50 chance of being sound to ride.  Her mare Dolly is gorgeous but she’s constantly on a diet, is a chronic wood chewer and tail rubber and frequently colics.  The problems that Mary has with her horses have you in a panic every time Jones lies down or stumbles.

    The bad news is that Blaze and Dolly might always have these problems and Mary will always have higher than normal feed, veterinary, and farrier bills.

    The good news is that all of these problems are preventable with good health management.  If you are a keen observer and follow good horse management, Jones will stay in tiptop shape and your budget won’t bust!

    Our horses depend on us to take good care of them.  We need to pay specific attention to feeding, sanitation, grooming, hoof care, veterinary care, and facilities management.

    FEEDING  
  1998 Cherry Hill
www.horsekeeping.com   

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacYour horse will quickly tell you that feeding is the number one priority!  In fact, a good appetite is the best sign that your horse is feeling well.  But if you left it up to your horse, he’d eat himself sick.  So you need to keep your horse at a healthy weight.  If he is too thin, he may lack energy, be weak, cold and less able to ward off illness.  If he is overweight, his limbs are unduly stressed and he’s more likely to founder.  Know your horse's weight so you can feed and deworm him accurately.  Use a weight tape to encircle his heart girth.  Record his weight and monitor it frequently.  A long winter coat can be deceiving.

  Hay is the mainstay of any horse’s diet.  Grass, the traditional "safe" horse hay, includes timothy, brome, and orchard grass.  Alfalfa hay which has higher protein, three times the calcium and more vitamins than grass hay, is often fed to young, growing horses and lactating broodmares.
Good hay is free of mold, dust, and weeds and has a bright green color and a fresh smell.  It is leafy, soft, and dry but not brittle.

    Feed about 2 pounds of hay per day for every 100 pounds of body weight. A 1000 # horse would get 20 pounds split into two 10 pound feedings. Feed hay by weight not flakes. Two flakes of dense alfalfa hay could weigh as much as 14 pounds while two flakes of fluffy, loose grass might only weigh 4 pounds!

    Grain should be fed only to horses that require it; many do not.  Young horses, horses in hard work, pregnant mares, and mares with foals usually need grain and supplements.  Oats provide fiber (from their hulls) and energy (from the kernel) and are the safest horse grain.  Corn has a very thin covering so does not provide much fiber but provides twice the energy content as the same volume of oats.  Commercial feeds come as pellets or grain mixes.  Pellets can contain both hay and grain.  "Sweet feed" grain mixes are usually made up of oats or barley and corn, molasses and a protein pellet.

    Grain should be fed by weight, not volume.  A two pound coffee can holds 1.1 pounds of bran, 2.1 pounds of sweet feed, and 2.9 pounds of pelleted feed so feeding by “the can” is inaccurate.

    To avoid competition, fighting, and unequal rations, feed each horse individually.  If a horse gobbles his grain, it can cause choking, inadequate chewing and poor feed utilization.  To slow him down, feed hay first, and then grain.  Add golf ball sized rocks to the grain and use a large shallow pan rather than a small, deep bucket.

    Minerals  Because soils, hay and grain vary widely in their mineral content, your horse needs free choice trace mineral salt.  Trace mineral salt is regular "table salt" (sodium chloride) with important minerals added.  An even better mineral block is a 12% Calcium/12% Phosphorus Trace Mineral Salt Block.

    Water  If a horse lacks water, he can lose his appetite and colic.  A horse drinks about 8-10 gallons of water a day usually an hour or two after eating hay.  But be sure a horse always has good quality, free-choice water.
In winter, a horse should not be expected to eat snow, as it would take too long and too much body heat for him to melt it.

    When a horse is hot from exercise, only let him sip water.  Walk him in between sips.  When he has stabilized, feed him grass hay and allow him his fill of water.

Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage    Pasture  Since pasture provides excellent exercise and nutrients, make best use of it by grazing it when it is 4 to 6 inches tall.  As soon as it is grazed down, move the horse to another pasture.
Before turning a horse out to pasture the first time, give him a full feed of hay.  Limit grazing to one-half hour per day for the first two days; then one-half hour twice a day for two days; then one hour twice a day and so on.  Pasture horses can quickly become overweight or founder from too much lush pasture.

    Feeding Safety  Since the digestive system of horses is designed to handle small frequent meals, feed two to three times every day.  Feed at the same time every day.  Horses have a strong biological clock; feeding late or inconsistently can result in colic and unpleasant stable vices and bad habits.
Make all changes in feed gradually whether it’s a change in type or amount.  If your horse gets 2 pounds of grain per feeding and you want to increase, feed 2 pounds for at least two days.  Then increase to 3 pounds.

    If you are changing hay, feed "old" hay and of “new” hay for 2 days.  Then feed old hay and new hay for two days.  Then feed old hay and new hay for 2 days.  Finally, feed all new hay.
Don't feed a horse immediately after hard work and don't work a horse until at least one hour after a full feed.  If you feed 2 pounds of grain or more per feeding and your horse has not been exercised for a few days, warm him up slowly to avoid “tying up” his muscles.  If your horse will be out of work, decrease his grain ration.  When he comes back to work, increase grain gradually.

    Feeding at ground level is natural and provides a horse with a good neck and back stretch.  But if a horse eats sand with his feed, it can accumulate at the bottom of his intestine and he could colic.  Use feeders or rubber mats in the feeding area and consider feeding psyllium to purge sand from the intestines.

    Feeders need to be clean and safe.  Moldy or spoiled feed can cause colic.  Sharp edges, broken parts, loose wires or nails can injure your horse’s head.  Tie hay nets securely and high enough so your horse can not get his leg caught in the net.

Part 1 - Feeding

Part 2 - Sanitation

Part 3 - Grooming

Part 4 - Hoof Care

Part 5 - Veterinary Care

 Home | BooksArticles | Shopping | View Cart | Contact | Site Map | Search

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

The information contained on this site is provided for general informational and educational purposes only.
The suggestions and guidelines should not be used as the sole answer for a visitor's specific needs.