When you are a horse owner, you want to make their health a top priority. Since good nutrition is one of the primary building blocks of your horse’s overall health and wellness, it is essential that you understand the unique dietary needs of a horse, including the elements of nutrition that must be in their food to keep them feeling their best. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind about horses’ dietary needs when shopping for supplies for your stable.
Horses are non-ruminant herbivores, meaning that they are biologically inclined to graze throughout the day. Their stomachs are relatively small in relation to their size, with a capacity of approximately 2 to 4 gallons. Because of this, the majority of a horse’s digestion takes place in the hindgut. This unique digestive process works quite well for horses, as long as they are permitted to graze throughout the day; however, domesticated horses whose owners feed them on a schedule may be prone to overeating, which leads to poor digestion and a host of other health problems. To keep your horse in the best of health, try to follow his or her natural tendency to graze, and make sure that all of the nutrition you are providing for your horse falls into one of the six classes of nutrients that they need to remain healthy:
Class 1: Water
As with humans, water is one of the most important nutrients, not to mention a basic necessity for survival! Your horse requires about 10 gallons of water per day to remain properly hydrated and to digest his or her feed and hay properly. For each pound of hay consumed, your horse should be drinking approximately two quarts of water in order to promote healthy digestion. This amount can be tripled or even quadrupled under special circumstances such as hot weather, exceptionally hard work, or if a mare is lactating. Make sure that your horse always has access to a fresh supply of water, and allow your horse to drink as much as he or she wants at all times, except immediately following exercise- in that case, it’s necessary to allow your horse to cool down prior to drinking.
Class 2: Vitamins
In order to preserve your horse’s normal body metabolism, it’s critical that you make sure he or she is getting the right amount of essential vitamins in his or her diet. Horse feed is fortified with nearly all the vitamins your horse requires; however, vitamin A is often missing from most horse feed. This vitamin is necessary for your horse’s eye functionality, and a deficiency of vitamin A could lead to night blindness or excessive tearing. You can purchase vitamin A supplements for your horse at all feed stores, or you may request an injection of vitamin A, which lasts for about three months, from your veterinarian. Perhaps the best source of vitamin A for your horse can be found naturally in spring and early summer grasses. These grasses contain high amounts of carotene, which the body naturally converts to vitamin A.
Horses with little to no access to fresh green feed may also be at risk of a vitamin E deficiency, which has been linked to neurologic, muscle, and reproductive problems. You can help your horse get the vitamin E he or she needs by including wheat germ oil or alfalfa meal in his or her diet.
Class 3: Minerals
Your horse’s diet should contain at least 21 required minerals, which can all be found in most high-quality feeds. Because of this, horses rarely suffer from mineral deficiencies. However, horses naturally crave salt, and an adult horse at pasture can go through about half a pound of salt per week, while mares and horses in training can consume even more. Be sure to provide plenty of salt for your horse in order to maintain a healthy weight and appetite.
Class 4: Protein
Most adult horses only require about 8 to 12 percent protein in their regular diet; however, protein is an important part of your horse’s daily nutrition. Since protein is responsible for healthy muscle development, it is vital that your horse receives the recommended amount of protein in his or her diet. Some natural sources of protein that can be incorporated into your horse’s diet include alfalfa and soybean meal. Protein supplements can also be found at any feed store, and are rated according to quality. If your horse is deficient in protein, he or she may become lethargic, and his or her coat may become dull and rough. By making sure your horse has enough protein in his or her diet, you can help them to stay strong and healthy throughout their life.
Class 5: Fats
Since horses do not have a gallbladder, as humans do, they are unable to process high levels of fat in their diet. Most horse feeds on the market contain less than 6 percent fat, which appears to be a sufficient amount to meet your horse’s nutritional needs. Few, if any, fatty acid deficiency cases have been reported in horses, so as long as you give your horse quality feed, you need not worry about supplementing his or her fat intake. However, if your horse participates in shows where a glossy coat is necessary, adding an ounce or two of polyunsaturated plant or vegetable oil to his or her feed twice a day can help keep your horse’s coat show quality, improving its natural luster and sheen.
Class 6: Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in your horse’s diet. Most quality feeds contain an adequate amount of soluble carbohydrates such as starches and sugars, which are easily broken down by your horse’s digestive system, as well as insoluble carbohydrates, such as fiber, which are fermented by intestinal bacteria to produce energy. As long as you use good quality horse feed, your horse is likely receiving the recommended daily amount of carbohydrates.
Making sure your horse receives proper nutrition is the most important part of horse ownership. By ensuring that the quality of your horse’s diet meets daily nutritional requirements, you are setting your horse up for a long, healthy life, and helping him or her to stay with you and perform at his or her peak for years to come. Want to support your Horse’s emotional and physical well-being with the many benefits of our CBD-infused products? Check out one of our new Equine formulas: Certified Organic Olive Oil Infused with Organically Grown Colorado CBD Hemp Extract.