Proper nutrition is essential for good health. Horses have sensitive digestive systems and unique nutritional requirements that can make it tricky to feed them. There’s a wide variety of feed, supplements, and hay choices on the market. It can be difficult to decide which one to use!
Carbohydrates: Likely one of the largest parts of your horse’s diet, carbohydrates come in two groups- structural and non-structural. Structural consists of fiber like hay and grass. These can be used as an energy source. It’s important that you offer quality hay that is free from stems and mold.
Non-structural carbohydrates are the sugars and starches found in grains. They offer a concentrated form of energy, but should only be used to supplement your horse’s forage intake.
Fats: These are an easily digestible form of energy. They offer much more than grain or other carbohydrates.
Protein: You can improve your horse’s muscle development and growth with protein. The average adult horse will need 8 to 10% of protein in their diet, though young horses will need considerably more. This essential nutrient can be acquired from legume hays like alfalfa.
Vitamins: Green forages offer the best source of vitamins. If your hay quality is poor, then you may need to supplement. Deficiencies can lead to some serious health concerns! Check the tag of your concentrate to see which vitamins are present.
Minerals: A commercial concentrate will usually offer a variety of minerals. Some can also be acquired through forage. A ration balancer or mineral block can be used to supplement horses that are not on a concentrate.
Water: Without water, your horse can’t survive. Fresh, clean drinking water is needed throughout the day!
Always base your horse’s diet around quality forage and water. Concentrates should be fed in smaller portions and never more than 0.5% of their body weight. A ration balancer or mineral block can be used to supplement forage. Additionally, make diet changes slowly and stick to a set schedule when possible.