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Horse Health- Tips to Feed Your Horse Proper feeding is vital for overall horse health. Poor diet can cause issues such as reduced performance, lameness, colic and increased risk of catching infectious diseases. Apart from water, horses require minerals, vitamins, energy, and protein in their diet. It’s critical that these nutrients be in the right amount and balance. Nutritional imbalances, deficiencies and excesses all can negatively affect a horse’s performance and health. When deciding on what to feed your horse, how to feed it and how much to feed, it’s important to note that horses have smaller stomachs, which reduces the portions they can eat at one time. A horse’s digestive tract is used to processing small portions of food continuously; hence, horses naturally nibble almost constantly. Bearing this in mind, the main food for horses is pasture. Most mature sports horses doing moderate to light work will do just fine on pasture alone as long as they get quality forage and sufficient grazing time. If there’s no pasture or pasture is insufficient, hay is the next best option. If feeding hay only, supply your horse with at least 2 pounds of high quality hay grass, like timothy, or orchard grass (fescue), per 100 pounds body weight each day. If hay is for supplementing pasture, then you’ll need to adjust the amount of hay feed to keep your horse in the right condition.
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A horse is deemed to be in good shape when its ribs are invisible but can be felt easily. The weight of a horse can be estimated by using a height tape, available at many feed stores. You can measure exact hay weights with economical hanging or quality loading scales. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses fed on grass, hay or a hay and grass combination require salt for balancing their diets. Depending on age, performance and forage fed, horses can also require protein horse supplements, and/or mineral/vitamin supplements. Most stores now sell protein or mineral or vitamin supplements for horses on forage diets. These are low in calories and are usually fed at a rate of one or two pounds every day for an adult horse. Due to limits on the feed that can be consumed, feeding forage alone can’t meet the nutrient needs of nursing mares, pregnant mares, growing foals, and hardworking foals. In such cases, a grain/concentrate should be fed to horses to supplement diets. Feed them appropriate amounts and kinds of grain/concentrate depending on the recommendations of the manufacturer. To change the horses’ diet, do it slowly. Horses still need to be fed forage at a rate of one or one and a half pounds per 100 pounds body weight each day for proper function of the digestive tract.