Notes on feeding: check points

Feed your horse at the best: some advice for his health.

  • #feeding
  • #horse health
  • #nutrition

Nutrition is essential for health and welfare of horses, above all for domestic horses living in the stable and not free in their natural way of living.
Generally, the basic foods are: hay, oats, barley, maize, bran, beans and linseed.
Each of these foods provide the horse essential nutrients: dry matter, protein, oil, digestible energy, fibre. Each of these essential nutrients provide the horse bring the needs of the horse in different proportions. We have to know the characteristics of each nutrient in order to feed our horses at the best.

Besides knowing the characteristics of the nutrients, we must consider:
- Hay by itself is variable in quality and food value. It is subject to variation from the type of grasses involved, from the condition it was in when cut, from the weather when saved and from the manner in which it was stored. However, because of being low in energy and high in fiber, hay alone is not adeguate for hard and fast work.
- Oats, being a good source of starch and protein, are well suited to the needs of the working horse. Depending of course on the quality of the oats. They are ready digested an not too bulky. The amount of protein in oats is an ideal basis for a racing diet.
- Barley is used, very often, as a minor dietary source of carbohydrate. However, it has a tendency to be heating an to create digestive disturbances above all in Thoroughbreds. Some horses tend to tie-up under its influence.
- Maize is not a suitable sole feed for horses, though is added in small quantities to many modern mixes.
- Bran is high in phosphorus, which can be a complicating factor if fed in excess to young animals. It is a useful laxative and may be added in small proportions to oats in a mixed diet.
​- Various types of bean are added to modern rations. They are high in protein and are useful for raising the protein level in diets which are otherwise inadeguate. But care needs to be taken in their  introduction and not to feed them at too high a level in the ration.
- Linseed is fed as a laxative to fit horses, once weekly, normally boiled or in oil form. It has proven benefits for sick and unthrifty horses, and it gives a bloom to the coat.

Any addition of high-protein sources has to be intellingently applied. The idea is only to add sufficient to bring the existing diet up to a specified level. Many trainers are feeding concentrates at protein levels well above those recommended; this is very dangerous for horse’s health. While is not possible to specify absolute guidelines for individual animals, the best advice is to feed with caution.
​Increase feed level gradually with work. Quantities fed have to reflect the size and the age of the horse, his workload, appetite, condition, etc…