A Few Guidelines For Proper Horse Nutrition
Feeding will depend vastly upon the workload and everyday activity level of your horse. Nutrition is of the utmost importance to every aspect of your horses health. Malnutrition can be easily detected, causing such telltale signs as dull, patchy coat, difficulty shedding properly per season, loss of weight, loss of muscle tone, lack of interest in water, runny nose, lethargy, and nervousness, just to name a few. If you recognize any of these symptoms with your horse, nutrition may be lacking and some adjustments will be needed right away. Lost muscle mass can be a devastating set back to the future of your equine charge, not to mention the danger which comes with the foraging that hungry or nutrient deficient horses will do.
Unless you keep gluttonous horses who don’t know when to say no, a constant supply of hay should be available for your horses. If your horses are younger, and have constant access to hay but are still losing weight or showing signs of malnutrition, you will need to worm your horses and check your hay for quality. The greener the better, of course, but if your hay is composed of too many stalks, your horses will not only be lacking in proper caloric balance, but this type of hard to digest food source can cause painful, potentially deadly blockage and colic.
If you have older horses who are privy to a constant source of hay but are still losing weight, you will need to check their teeth. Often, the rear teeth of older horses recede and fall out, and they can not chew. These horses will need supplements such as softened beet pulp or senior pellets. They will still attempt to eat hay, so don’t be fooled by the mere vision of them standing around the hay bail. Toothless horses can quickly fall to starvation, no matter how much hay they pretend to chew.
Winter horse nutrition requires a variance in approach, and your horses meals need to be supplemented and timed more deliberately. A horse derives his body heat from the digestion and healthy fermentation of food. He can withstand temperatures of -40 degrees for extended periods of time, if his needs are met. If you stall your horse, try to designate at least three flakes of his daily food ration for a late night feeding. He doesn’t need to eat as much when the sun is out as he does during the stark cold of night. Also, never assume that snow is an adequate source of water for your horse. He can not digest without water, and the absorption of snow can dehydrate him further. If you have to walk water to him four times a day in buckets, then so be it. He needs full access to clean water around the clock, especially during the harsh winter months.