Lessons Learned About Health

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Horse Health- Tips to Feed Your Horse Proper diet is very important for your horse’s overall health. Poor nutrition can cause problems like increased risk for infectious diseases, reduced performance, lameness, and colic. As well as water, horses require vitamins, minerals, protein and energy in their diet. The right amount and balance of these nutrients is critical. Nutritional imbalances, deficiencies and excesses all can negatively affect a horse’s performance and health. When deciding what, how much, and how to feed your horse, it’s important to bear in mind that horses have small stomachs, which limits the amount of food they can take at one time. The digestive system of a horse is used to processing small quantities of food continuously; thus, horses tend to nibble on food 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 is no pasture or it’s inadequate, the next ideal option is hay. 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 you supplement pasture with hay, then you should adjust the quantity of hay to keep your animal in proper condition.
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A horse is said to be in the right condition when you can’t see its ribs but you can easily feel them. You can accurately estimate the weight of a horse with a height tape, which can be found at many horse feed stores. You can measure accurate hay weights using top loading scales or economical hanging. High quality hay is leafy green, free of musty smell, and free of mold and dust as well.
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Horses feeding on diets of hay, grass or a combination of the two need salt in order to balance their rations. Depending on age, performance and forage fed, horses can also require protein horse supplements, and/or mineral/vitamin supplements. Most stores now stock vitamin/mineral/protein supplements for horses fed on forage. 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 limitations on the amount of feed intake, forage alone might not provide enough nutrient requirements of growing foals, hardworking horses, pregnant mares, and nursing mares. In these cases, the horses’ diets should be supplemented by a grain/concentrate. Feed them appropriate amounts and kinds of grain/concentrate depending on the recommendations of the manufacturer. If you need to alter their diet, make sure to do it gradually. 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.