There are over two million horse owners in America today. While the largest number of horses that folks own are used for recreation and showing, some are used for farm work, police work, or polo. Some are working racing horses.
If you are a horse owner, you know what it means to worry over your horse's health. Colic, ulcers, and laminitis are words that make you concerned, and you want to feed your animal the cleanest and healthiest diet possible. While many of us know that feeding horses two larger meals each day is not optimal for their digestive health, we are often busy and unavailable for many feedings throughout the day. We want to help our horses eat right, but find that time constraints limit our resources. What are some tools for feeding horses more efficiently? Here are some handy tips.
1. Keep Horses Outdoors as Much as Possible
A horse's stomach should never be empty, as their stomachs produce a lot of acid. Saliva is nature's way of counteracting acid production, so a horse with an empty stomach is prone to colic
and ulcers. Horses produce twice as much acid when chewing on grass or hay than they do when eating grain. In nice weather, horses can spend up to 18 hours a day grazing, which is natural and ideal. In colder weather, horses still need to be eating at least 1.5-2% of their body weight each day for optimal hindgut health. Forage should make up between 50% to 100% of their diet. An average 1,000 -pound horse should be eating twenty to twenty-five pounds of forage per day.
2. Consider Forage Sources
Hay is an excellent source of forage in the colder months, as well as alternative forage sources such as hay cubes, which contain less dust than hay. Beet pulp is popular because it is digestible and appetizing to horses. Complete feeds also contain crude fiber. Apples, apricots, and carrots are also safe.
3. Consider Using an Automatic Feeder
If you would like to feed horses smaller portions of food throughout the day, but are busy with other farm or work responsibilities, an automatic feeder
could be your answer. Horses can eat when you are unable to visit the stable, eliminating the onset of ulcers
, colic, or laminitis that could occur when horses' stomachs are producing too much acid. You will also decrease the amount of parasites, insects, dust, and sand that horses consume when food is eaten from the ground. These are often the causes of diarrhea, colic, weight loss, fevers, and ulcers. You will find that an automatic horse feeder is an investment that pays off quickly in saved veterinary bills. It can also reduce the amount of time and money spent on labor. Automatic feeders decrease the amount of hay that is trampled during normal feedings, saving you money on wasted food. In the long run, an automatic horse feeder
may bring you a great deal of peace-of-mind and peace-of-wallet.
4. Consider Forage Quality
Good quality hay is clean and does not have a rusty smell. It should not have any mold, which you will know by its grayish-white color. You should also look for hay that has soft, flexible stems, since hay becomes more fibrous as it ages. Bales that seem to heavy could have moisture that causes mold. Choose lighter, younger-looking bales. As plants mature, they carry less protein and nutrients. You will know that hay is younger if it is softer and lacks seeds, which are present on more maturing hay.
5. Feeding Horses Hay Before Grain
If horses eat grain before their hay, it can reach the hindgut before it is digested properly. The sugars and starches left in their digestive systems can cause problems like colic. Digesting hay and water first will give horses the forage they need to digest nutrients properly.
6. Water Often
Most horses need to drink up to seven gallons of water a day. If they don't get enough, digested food can dry along their digestive tracts and cause colic that is potentially fatal. Adequate water supply will keep horses happy and healthy. Be sure to keep water clean. Avoid water that is too hot or too cold, as this can discourage horses from drinking. You may want to consider insulated water buckets to keep water from freezing in the winter, and from warming in the summer.
7. Allow Sufficient Time Between Feeding and Exercise
Since saliva helps to buffer acids, it helps to give animals a small treat before riding. It is not, however, advisable to ride or work your horses before an hour after they have eaten a large meal. Riding your horse with a full digestive system could lead to colic. It gives your horse's lungs less room to work if his stomach is full.
8. Don't Forget the Salt
To help them get the required amount of sodium and chloride, horses should get about one-to-two ounces of salt per day. Horses that don't get enough sodium can suffer from heat stress and electrolyte imbalances. They may also have a greater risk of colic. Salt comes in white or red mineralized blocks or loose forms. It can be dispensed from an automatic feeder.
Time to Feed the Horses!
With plenty of pasture time, the right quality of forage, and lots of water, your horse will be working in optimal health with a happy demeanor. Feeding horses has never been easier! For more information, contact us
or call us today.