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, hed 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 hes 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 horses 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.
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.
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
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
Make all changes in feed gradually whether its a change in
type or amount. If your horse gets 2 pounds of grain per feeding and you
want to increase, feed 2 ½ pounds for at least two days. Then increase to
If you are changing hay, feed
¾ "old" hay and ¼ of new hay for 2 days. Then feed
½ old hay and ½ new hay for two days. Then feed ¼ old hay and ¾ 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 horses head. Tie
hay nets securely and high enough so your horse can not get his leg caught in
Part 1 - Feeding
2 - Sanitation
3 - Grooming
4 - Hoof Care
5 - Veterinary Care