specially designed section for the
FEEDING AND CARE OF
You have just purchased your first horse! Along with all the fun and excitement comes a lot of responsibility. You need to insure that your horse is healthy and happy. Here are some important guidelines for the safe feeding and care of your new partner.
It will first be helpful to know a little about the horses digestive system. The horse is a roughage eater a grazer. His digestive system has evolved to be continually working, therefore he needs free choice hay or pasture grass to keep his digestive system working naturally. The horses stomach is very small, so he cannot eat large quantities. If he needs nutrients in addition to hay or pasture, it needs to be split into small amounts (i.e. two or more feedings per day).
Here are some simple rules for feeding your horse:
- Keep water and hay in front of your horse at all times.
- Feed small amounts often, never one big feed.
- Feed your horse on a regular schedule, they are creatures of habit.
- Make no sudden changes in the amount and kind of feed.
- Feed plenty of bulk (pasture grass and hay).
- Water before hay, hay before grain (water, hay, grain). Allows digestive system to begin working, avoiding problems, i.e. colic.
- Feed (amount of food) according to amount of exercise and condition of horse.
- Feed only good quality, clean feed, in clean containers.
- Do not feed moldy, musty, or very green hay.
- Do not work a horse immediately after feeding; wait at least one hour.
- Do not feed a horse immediately after riding, let horse rest about one hour.
- Observe your horse continually to make sure you are feeding him properly is he too fat? Too thin? Are there performance problems associated with his feeding program?
Now comes the next question - What do I feed my horse? Basic nutrition requirements will vary according to age, metabolism, and level of exercise. You will want to discuss the specific requirements of your horse with your veterinarian.
Here are some basic things to know:
- There are five basic components to a horses nutrition.
Water a horse can drink up to 10-12 gallons a day.
Energy your horse will need carbohydrates (i.e. oats) and fats (want low fat intake).
Protein horses get their protein from grains, pasture grass and hay.
Minerals most important for the horse are calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, chloride and potassium.
Vitamins will usually receive sufficient amounts through good quality forage and concentrates.
- Forages (pasture or hay) should be the foundation of the diet.
The two types are:
Legumes (alfalfa, clover) are higher in protein, calcium and potassium than grasses.
Grasses (timothy, orchard grass, and fescue) are lower in nutrients than legumes, but still a good source of nutrition.
Discuss with your vet which type of hay to feed according to exercise, your pasture, your horses age, etc.
- Additional concentrates (i.e. grains) will provide needed nutrients when forage is not enough.
a. There are many commercial feeds(concentrates) available, i.e. oats, pellets, sweet feed, corn etc.
b. Discuss with your veterinarian which type is appropriate for your horse.
- Provide salt (i.e. salt block), especially if you are not providing a commercial feed.
Also important to your horses health and well being are regular visits from the veterinarian and farrier. Before bringing your horse home, it is important to research your area for a vet and farrier who is able to take on a new client.
Here is what you need to know for regular maintenance:
- Your horse will need routine shots, here is a guideline to what he will need:
Annual - rabies, tetanus, Eastern & Western encephalomyelitis, botulism and strangles.
Twice per year Potomac fever, and depending on your location, your vet may recommend it more often.
Every 8 weeks rhino/flu is given to younger horses and horses traveling often (i.e. competition horses).
- Worm regularly every 6 8 weeks with paste wormer. Common paste wormers are Ivermectin, Panacur, and Strongid. The vet will vary the type of wormer used.
- Shoe regularly, every 4 6 weeks, depending on the horse. Some horses may go without shoes, but if your horse will be ridden regularly, it is best to have at least front shoes. You and your farrier will decide what is best after you have both gotten to know the horse.
- Know the emergency phone # of your vet.
- Every time you feed or handle your horse it is best to make a 5-minute check on his overall health:
- Is he alert and bright eyed?
- Have a shiny coat?
- Did he eat and drink?
- Any discharge from his eyes or nose?
- Any cuts or abnormal swelling on legs or other parts of body?
- Is he acting normal?
- Exercise your horse regularly. If you cannot ride him, he must at least be able to go outside. If he is used to regular work and for some reason you cannot ride him, it is best to cut his regular amount of grain.
These tips ought to get you started in developing a healthy caring relationship with your new partner. Though many of these things may be new to you, remember to be an informed consumer. The more you know, the better choices you will make. There are many products and services for sale and you must know enough so you can decide what feels right to you.
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