Remember the first time you went to a horse? You were probably bombarded with rules of what you should and shouldn’t do to the horse. How you should approach the horse, how you must feed it. Etc. Nevertheless, seldom do you hear rules about feeding them. What do horses eat? These rules are imperative in laying a foundation for maintaining a healthy horse. Mentioned below are some horse feeding rules.
Provide adequate roughage
Also called dietary fiber, roughage is food that is high in crude fiber. Common roughages for horses are chaff and hay. Most breeds do not require grains in their diet. Hay or pasture of high quality would suffice. Grain comes into the picture when a horse is not receiving its complete nutrition from roughage. Regardless, the majority of its calories must come from dietary fiber.
Foods like roughage are largely recommended for horses as their digestive systems are designed to use the nutrition from such foods. However, it is important to understand that too much of this is detrimental to the horse’s health as well. Typically, a horse must only consume 1 – 2% of their body weight in roughage daily.
Horses that do not graze often and are kept in stalls are certainly not living their natural feeding patterns. Hay can be kept along with them to replicate this pattern.
Provide small amounts of grain
In case you do wish to feed your horse grains for any reason, make sure to divide it into several small meals rather than providing your horse with its daily quota at once. Several small meals are more natural to a horse and it makes digestion easier as well. Too much grain at once causes ineffective digestion.
Change the feed schedule gradually
When you make a change to your horse’s diet, do so gradually. This includes altering the ration size, changing the type of feed, or adding new food into its existing schedule. Sudden alterations in their food habits could lead to ailments such as colic or founder.
The rule of thumb, if you are changing feed completely, is to replace about 25% of the current food with the new food every two days. This means that within a week, your horse is eating the new food completely.
How much should horses eat?
Determine the weight of your horse and provide it with 1 – 2% of roughage in their bodyweight. Hay for horses is easily available in the market and you must purchase this keeping in mind the daily ration for your horse.
Do not feed your horse immediately before or after its exercise
You must typically wait an hour after exercising your horse before feeding them. Conversely, you must also not feed your horse 1 hour before any sort of exercise. In case of strenuous activity, you must refrain from feeding your horse for 3 hours before exercise.
Stick to a routine
Horses have accurate internal clocks and are often much better timekeepers than their caretakers. They should have consistent schedules with meals arriving at the same time daily. Most horses will not be affected by the abrupt change in timing. However, horses prone to colic may be affected.
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