Horses are naturally susceptible to a plethora of ailments. It is, therefore, imperative for owners and caretakers to focus a lot on a horse’s health. Maintaining good health of a horse transcends simply deworming and vaccinating it regularly. All horse owners do worry about their horse’s health and maintaining their health includes, but is not limited to, identifying the right horse feed, providing adequate exercise, timely grooming, etc.
7 signs you have a healthy horse
Maintaining good horse health not only requires caretakers to identify symptoms of diseases, it also means that they need to notice the signs of a healthy horse. Some of the signs that indicate good horse health are mentioned below.
- Temperature, respiration, & pulse – This is a horse’s vital signs. It is essential to know these details to gauge a horse’s health. A normal temperature range for a horse should lie between 37.2 – 38.3 degree celcius. The most accurate way to gauge its temperature to insert a digital thermometer into the anus.
The normal heart rate of a horse lies between 28 – 44 beats per minute. It is best to visit a vet to accurately gauge the heart rate of a horse, but you may do so by using a stethoscope and placing it right below its elbow.
The normal respiratory rate for a horse is 10 – 25 breaths per minute. To measure this at home, observe the movement of the horse’s flank as it breathes.
- Pink gums – A healthy horse must have moist, pink gums. There should be deep concern if the gums are purple, yellow, dark red, or streaked with the appearance of tiny, broken blood vessels.
- Capillary refill time – To test your horse’s capillary refill time, gently press against its gums. This should cause it to turn white. In a healthy horse, it should change colour to pink within 2 seconds. Anything more than this could indicate that your horse has health issues.
- Gut sounds – Occasional roars, gurgling, and tinkling sounds in the gut are absolutely normal for a horse. However, if you do not hear sounds in the gut occasionally, and this is clubbed with behavioural issues, could indicate signs of colic.
- Hydration – Hydration in a horse can be checked accurately by a vet. However, you can test the same by pinching the horse’s skin at the base of his shoulder or neck. Upon releasing the skin, it must snap back in place within a second or two. If it takes longer than that, it could indicate that the horse is dehydrated and the horse’s health is not optimal.
- Bright eyes – A healthy horse’s eyes must be bright, clear, and free from any sort of discharge.
- Firm stools – Stools are a good indication of a horse’s health. A horse’s stool must be well-formed, have a uniform colour, and a subtle odour. The stool also must not contain any undigested horse feed.
Best horse food list for good health
Taking care of a horse’s diet is one of the most imperative parts of maintaining good health. A horse eats only specific types of food, and therefore, it can be challenging to provide them with a balanced nutrition. These herbivores have a digestive system that is unique and more complex than other animals.
They love eating fiber rich food, and hydrating them by providing sufficient water is of utmost importance. This will keep their digestive tract in good shape. However, it should be noted that while planning a diet, you must always go for quality horse feed.
Horses eat small meals at regular time intervals. They must eat two to three feeds per day. A horse must not be left without food for more than eight hours. It is important to ensure that their trouts are kept clean, or else they may refuse to consume food or water.
Most of their horse feed consists of roughage, grains, water, and supplements. Horses love to eat grass and fruits, but it is important to not overdo this. Consuming more that what is nutritionally required will cause obesity. Mentioned below is a list of foods that is beneficial to a horse’s health.
- Roughage – Roughage is also referred to as dietary fiber. Common roughage for horses are hay, grass, and chaff. Roughage is highly recommended as their digestive tracts are designed to absorb the nutrition from foods like this. Typically a horse must only consume 1-2% of their body weight in roughage.
- Grains – Most breeds do not require grains to be a part of their budget. Grains come into picture when they don’t receive all of their nutrition from roughage. Horses that have high energy requirements are generally the ones that require grain in their diet. Nevertheless, most of the calories must be consumed from roughage. Ensure to divide the daily quota of grains into small parts and feed at intervals.
- Fruits & Vegetables – Fruits & Vegetables must be fed in small quantities in between meals as snacks. It is important to not overfeed them.
- Water – Water must be available to a horse at all times.
- Supplements – Rarely does a horse get all the nutritional requirements from diet alone. It is imperative to feed them supplements to fill any nutritional gaps that there may be. Consult a vet to know exactly what supplement you need to be feeding your horse.
List of foods that you should NOT feed your horse
- Excessive snacks, fruits, or treats – Excessive amounts of traits can lead to obesity and colic in horses. It can also lead to more serious health issues including laminitis. Refrain from feeding your horse more than 2 wedges of fruit a day, or 2 – 3 carrots a day.
- Stone fruits – A stone fruit is a fruit that has a fleshy exterior and has a large stone inside. This is often mistakenly referred to as the seed of the fruit, but the seed is generally within the stone. Examples of such fruits are peaches, apricots, cherries, and mangoes. These types of fruits are a choking hazard to horses.
- Chocolate or sugary foods – Although your horse may seem to enjoy such foods, it is extremely harmful to their health. Chocolate can be poisonous to horses, and sugary foods can lead to major health issues including obesity.
- Cakes & Breads – Feeding horses cakes & breads could cause a blockage in their digestive tracts.
- Meat – In a long term perspective, meat is detrimental to their health. They simply do not need it from a nutritional perspective.
- Vegetables from the cabbage family – Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, kale, etc. can leave your horse feeling gassy and uncomfortable. These vegetables can cause real discomfort in them.
- Tomatoes & Potatoes – These vegetables should not be fed to horses as they are part of the nightshade family.
- Garden waste – There is a lot of risk involved in feeding your horse garden waste. From unwanted clippings to toxic plants, your horse can be harmed by getting fed garden waste.
- Dusty or mouldy hay – Feeding you horse hay that is mouldy or dusty can cause damage to its lungs.
- Brans – These are very harmful to horses and must not be fed to them unless specifically mentioned by the vet.
Corn for horses: Is it healthy?
Corn is one of the most energy-dense horse grains and it also contains high volumes of carbohydrates. 1 volume of corn contains the energy of approximately 3 volumes of oats. Corn is therefore classified as ‘too hot’ a horse feed. However, for horses that have very high energy requirements, corn can be an excellent feed.
The quality of corn is measured by the well-formed kernels and the moisture content in it. However, the moisture content must not exceed 14%. Very little damaged kernels must be present in the corn for it to be considered high quality. Furthermore, kernels must be firm, plump, and separated.
Corn can be fed in the following forms.
- On the cob – This is a form that can be introduced in the horse feed of horses that habitually eat their grains too fast. It acts as a management tool and slows down the rate of eating. It is important to note that horses with bad teeth or older horses may have difficulty in chewing corn on the cob.
- Shelled whole corn – Some whole corn may not be digestible. Therefore, it is advised to process the kernels before introducing it to the horse feed.
- Cracked corn – It is advised to crack the corn before feeding your horse as this allows for better digestion.
- Steamed rolled corn – This further processes the corn and further aids in digestion. Steam rolling creates more surface area for the digestive juices to act upon.
- Crushed or ground corn – This is corn that is further processed. However, this causes the corn to be too small. If this passes through the small intestines too rapidly, it can lead to unwanted issues.
Horse feed supplements: Is it good to give your horse supplements?
Supplements can and must be fed to horses for an overall balanced diet. However, supplements must never be used as a substitute for a balanced diet, rather, it must simply be used as a tool to fill the nutritional gaps that regular food doesn’t fill. Supplementation is not required if the horse’s nutritional needs are being fulfilled. That being said, it is very unlikely that a horse can receive all its required nutrition from a regular diet.
What supplements do I give my horse?
With the ample number of various supplements and supplement brands in the market, it can get challenging to figure out what supplements you need to give your horse. It is advisable to get your veterinarian’s opinion before introducing a supplement to your horse, but mentioned below is a brief description of horse supplements and the issues they address.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements for horses – Vitamin & mineral supplements are often added into the horse feed to ensure the horse consumes a balanced, nutritional diet. It is important to refrain from overfeeding your horse with these supplements. Horse vitamin supplements must be used to simply fill the nutritional gap that regular food doesn’t fill. The best horse vitamin and mineral supplement is one that clearly has all its ingredients clearly mentioned and addresses the main issues the hair is facing.
- Magnesium supplements for horses – In case your horse isn’t receiving sufficient sources of magnesium from its diet, a magnesium supplement can be introduced. Magnesium is usually fed as a calming supplement until recently. Nowadays, it is fed to horses as an anecdotal supplement. Magnesium supplements for horses is important in maintaining normal levels of blood serum.
- Horse coat & skin supplements – If your horse’s coat is dull, thin, brittle, and lacks condition, it is highly likely that the horse is not getting enough nutrients from his regular food. This may be the case if its skin is dry too. If this is the case, you may consider implementing a coat and skin supplement for your horse. These supplements are meant to improve your horse’s coat and most of them contain flaxseed and omega 3, both of which would help maintain a healthy, shiny coat. Some of these horse supplements also contain biotin, vitamin b12, vitamin e, and niacin. These will help improve the coat’s condition.
- Horse topline supplements – Feeding a horse supplements to improve its topline has always been a hot topic of discussion. A horse’s topline is the group of muscles that run along its spine. Generally, canned horse feed contains enough protein to maintain a healthy topline. However, consult a veterinarian to figure if your horse is getting enough protein before putting your horse on topline supplements.
- Joint supplement for horses – Just like humans, horses too get joint issues as they age. They develop pains and aches. This is more prevalent in overweight horses, and therefore, maintaining a healthy weight on your horse eliminates a certain degree of risk. Nevertheless, the threat is real and there’s supplements in the market that can help relieve the pain and strengthen the joints. One of the most common joint supplements for horses is cod liver oil.
Some of the best joint supplements for horses are:-
- Cox Veterinary Acti-Flex Supplement
- Equithrive Original Joint Supplement
- Cetyl M Joint Action Formula
- LubriSyn Joint Supplement
- Cosequin Equine
- PSPC Joint Support Granules
- Vitaflex Pro MSM Joint Supplement
- Horse Health Joint Combo Supplement
- Majesty’s Flex Wafers
- Joint Support MSM
Ulcer supplements for horses
Ulcer and other general digestive tract issues are common in horses. Some factors that cause ulcers in horses are training, anxiety, weaning, confinement, etc. These cause an imbalance in the pH levels. Ulcer supplements for horses helps in balancing these levels.