Understanding The Nutrition That Your Horse Needs

Every horse owner wants to make sure their animal is well cared for and healthy. This can mean getting to grips with certain parts of their anatomy – like the digestive system – which may differ greatly from that of humans.

Equine digestive systems

Despite their size, horses actually have a small gut with a very minute capacity of just two-four gallons. This limits the amount of food a horse can take in at any one time so it’s important you don’t overfeed.

Horses also don’t have gall bladders which mean high fat diets are extremely difficult for them to digest – they also cannot vomit or regurgitate food.
With this in mind, it is really important to ensure your horse’s diet is right for them and that they receive all the nutrients and vitamins they need to stay strong and healthy for years to come.

Equine nutrition

The first step to understanding your horse’s digestive system is getting to grips with basic horse nutrition – which isn’t actually that complicated.

Like humans, they need a balance of six different ingredients; albeit in different quantities.
It is important to remember that equine nutrition largely depends on the age, weight and activity level of the horse in question so you’ll need to check this to make sure your horse gets the right balance.

1.    Water
This is the most important nutrient as horses just cannot live without it. Horses will normally drink two times the amount of hay they consume and if it is hot this will increase to four times the amount. It is also important to remember horses sweat a lot, especially if you are training and riding them so it is important for them to have access to a free supply of water, however don’t let them drink too much cold water straight after exercise because this can upset their stomachs. Ensure your horse always has a large, clean supply of water to accommodate this.

2.    Fat
Fat may be added to horse feed in order to ensure the energy density is increased. If you are looking for fat supplements it is important to ask at the store before purchasing one as different ones have higher percentages of fat. It is also good to note that a lot of horse feeds already contain high levels of fat so it does not always have to be added in separately.

3.    Carbohydrates
This is where horses get most of their energy so it is extremely important. Soluble carbohydrates are found in nearly all horse feeds but corn has the highest amount and so is a good food source. Fibre is also one of the most important feeds for horses as it acts as an internal heat source – so the more fibre the better!

4.    Protein
This is used in muscle development during growth and equestrian activities. Soybean meal is a great source of this and can be easily added to the diet of your horse. If you are worried your horse may not be getting enough protein, you can check its coat as any coarseness will indicate a potential protein deficiency.

5.    Vitamins
Most feeds available for horses will have the right amount of vitamins already added to them. However, horse supplements are readily available on the market if your horse is lacking a particular ingredient and may also be useful at treating conditions such as stress – Vitamin E is particularly good at this.

6.    Minerals
Lastly, minerals are needed for maintenance of the body structure and fluid balance in the cells. Only a very small amount of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and sulphur are needed daily and again they’ll be added to most feeds or available as supplements.

At Ride Away we have a selection of horse feeds that can be purchased in store.

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