Feeding your horse
The key to maintaining a horse’s health is 24/7 turnout with a hay based diet. This diet can be supplemented with free-choice minerals and separate loose sea or rock salt. Please see (Supplements and Salt articles)
The equine digestive system has evolved for a constant uptake of small amounts of food and absorbs the nutrients out of this food to produce energy. Its digestive system is unique, however, it is prone to problems because of the way most owners feed their horses. Common feeding practices of feeding horses large meals or grain based meals or both give horses digestive system real issues. Grain based meals cause a feeding and fasting cycle which means insulin spikes to counter all the glucose entering the bloodstream from the carbohydrate fermentation. This causes laminitis, colic and gastric ulcers to name a few issues. The only thing that is surprising is that they don’t have more problems than they currently do. Horses are classed as hindgut fermenters and dependent on a supply of fibre constantly. Without this constant high fibre diet the horse will be susceptible to nutritional imbalances and problems already mentioned.
Stand up all you equine food companies and take note, horses can obtain all necessary nutrients on free-choice hay and pasture without anything else. If there is a deficiency in our horses look at this first, either choose the best natural fertiliser to replace the missing nutrients in the soil or supplement them. With horses diets keep it simple. The only exception to this is salt where horses in training or heavy use will need more sea or rock salt in their diet to replace sodium lost when sweating. Even if you are without hay for a short period for whatever reason there is no need to revert to concentrates. You can use fibre pellets or hay chaff. If a horse is losing condition still look at more fibre first to top up their hay consumption and then fats like micro-linseed.
Just out of interest did any of you know a horse’s liver increases in size after a large meal and also rapidly increases its weight too? It is thought that this happens as a result of glycogen storage and blood flow. This liver size and weight increase would not happen in the wild and it’s a ¼ bigger after a meal. This will be utilised by a horse in training when the liver reduces after exercise, however, I’m not sure of the long-term effects of this, but I could not imagine it being good.
© Copyright 2015 Chris Simpson