The Ultimate Guide To Feeding Your Horse: The Dos & Don'ts

September 30, 2020

The Ultimate Guide To Feeding Your Horse: The Dos & Don'ts

Are you a loving horse owner? Are you also struggling to decipher what to feed your precious equine companion? 

Owning a horse is a beautiful experience. The fulfillment you can receive from riding, treating, and caring for such a beautiful animal is priceless. It can provide beautiful memories, adventures and stories to tell for generations ahead. 

With all these benefits, making sure you have a well looked-after horse is a priority higher than no other. 

This article will give you a guide to horse feeding so that your companion can have a life of happiness and healthiness.

Read on to find out the ultimate, gourmet menu of horse food. We'll cover the standard fare but also foods that you never knew your horse could enjoy. We will go over the foods you want to avoid along the way.

Let's face it, if humans can look forward to their meals, then why can't our pets?

Horses are our friends, so let's give them some horse food menus they can look forward to—and safely enjoy!

The Rules of Feeding Horses

Because horses have a long digestive system, their dietary requirements can be quite specific. Part of the restrictions has to do less with the food and more to do with horse feeding practices. Here's what you can do to support your equine friend.

Do Feed Your Horse Little and Often

If you are a horse owner, the most significant rule is to make sure you feed them little and often. 

Unlike their two-legged friends, horses spend most of their days eating. However, they don't eat according to the breakfast, lunch and dinner ritual that we humans enjoy. Instead, your animal should graze small amounts and regularly throughout the day.

Horses are naturally wild creatures, similar to sheep and cows. Just like these animals, they tend to graze gradually throughout the day. 

The horse's feeding pattern should mirror this grazing schedule, which means making sure its meals are consistent. Instead of giving them three large meals, as you would for a human, you want to provide them with smaller amounts that they can eat all day. 

The feeding schedule ensures a consistent passing of food and nutrients through its digestive system. 

Do Make Bulk and Roughage Priorities

One thing you want to make sure of is that your herbivore's diet has a balance of bulk and roughage. It helps to maintain the animal's digestive systems.

This balancing act means ensuring that your horse gets out into the field regularly to enjoy a mixture of grass, hay, and roughage. The combination is vital for your horse, as it is what they would experience and enjoy in the field. 

Do Feed Your Horse According to Its Size

It is crucial that you feed your horse enough food according to its size. 

As obvious as it seems, too little or too much food can result in your horse being under or overweight. You want to check with a horse doctor to ask about horse food volume relative to its weight.

Do Ensure They Get Exercise

While you want to give your horse food throughout the day, it's also essential to ensure they get the right amount of exercise and movement, too. 

Allowing a horse to graze indefinitely without sufficient exercise can cause many health problems, including obesity. 

Just like humans need to stay active for overall health, horses do, too. These animals naturally cover long distances while grazing in open pastures. The amount of exercise they get should be equal to what they would get in the wild.

Don't Make Sudden Changes to Their Diet

When it comes to horses, the large intestine is a big deal. If your beloved companion consumes any bacteria, the intestine will break it down and adapt to it. Its digestive system has a natural way of adjusting to bacteria and neutralizing it. 

With this said, it is a good idea to avoid making changes to your horse food. The horse's digestive system will kill off bacteria that are familiar to its diet. New foreign elements can disrupt its processes, causing potential metabolic disorders. 

What Should You Feed Your Horse?

With all these specific feeding practices, you may be thinking: "What can horses eat?" 

Horses have digestive tracts very different from humans. They require a diet high in fiber and consumed in little amounts over long periods. 

But just like humans, horses also enjoy variety in their meals. Of course, Oreos and Pringles won't do for these precious herbivores. Here's what you should be feeding your horse so that it can get the nutrients it needs while also getting satisfaction from its meals.

Do Feed Them Grass & Pasture Plants

Do horses eat grass? It's a common question.

The short answer is yes, horses eat grass. It is one of the leading dietary requirements for these beautiful beasts. Grass pastures are one of the natural horse feeding sources.

When horses graze in fields that contain these greens, they ingest many nutrients and minerals that are vital for their overall health. Many kinds of grass and plants have silica, a chemical compound essential for horse dental health and hygiene.

It's worth noting that fresh and natural pasture can provide the best nutrition for horses, so when possible, give it fresh grass.

Do Have Hay as a Backup

Hay is the next-best choice after grass and green pastures. When the latter is not readily available, or these natural horse food sources are out of season, hay can still provide horses with some of the nutrients and vitamins they require.

It does help to have a stock of good hay ready for the winter. It can sometimes be challenging to find hay that is in acceptable condition for horses. 

It's also advisable to have your hay tested for the vitamin and mineral count. If your hay has a low count, you can make sure you have a supplement for your horse.

Grain Dos and Don'ts

Oats are some of the most traditional grains that people have fed to horses for generations. Horses can consume small amounts of other grains, as well. However, it is always a good idea to research the specific type of grain because not all grains are suitable for the horse's digestive system.

Horses should actively stay away from wheat. These grains are the result of human activity, produced, domesticated, and harvested for human consumption. They are not natural foods for herbivores, and they can be toxic food for horses.

When preparing your horse food, make sure that you don't just give them a grain diet. Yes, grains can be good for your horse. However, too much of it without other foods could lead to dental problems and ulcers.

Corn Dos & Don'ts

Corn straight off the cob is something you can give to younger horses. However, for the elder animals, corn is not advisable. Older horses or horses with bad teeth may have difficulty biting through the cob.

In this instance, cracked corn can be a sound alternative. It allows digestive juices to seep into the corn, leading to improved digestion.

Milo Dos & Don'ts

Similarly to corn, horse owners should be aware of the form in which they feed the grain milo. As it is a high-energy grain, it is better to mix it with a bulkier feed. The mixture will prevent any digestive issues. 

For a safe meal, make sure to get cracked milo. It will make it easier for your horse to chew and digest. 

Do Give them Fruit and Veggie Treats

Snacks are a significant factor in horse feeding. Obviously, you want to treat your horse now and again, because who wouldn't? 

However, it can be easy to get into a habit of feeding your horse too many treats, too often. While your companion may appreciate all the snacks, it's your responsibility to know what type of treats are best for horse feeding. 

Horses enjoy fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples. While some of us might see eating fruits and veggies as more of a chore than a treat, horses enjoy munching and crunching on these foods. 

Fruits and vegetables are the main treats of choice for horse owners, and they are perfectly safe for your horse to eat. As mentioned before, though, make sure not to overindulge your horse. You want these food sources to be a treat, not dinner. Too many treats will mean they aren't getting the essential nutrients they need from grass, hay, and grains. 

Other horse food snacks include handfuls of grain, small bits of candy, and sugar cubes. But, the two latter choices need to be for only the rare occasion. 

 

Don't Give Them Too Many Sugary Snacks or Meat

It can be a bad idea to feed your horse too many sugary treats, and this can include sugary fruits. 

It is also essential to be aware that meat sometimes doesn't react well in the horse digestive system. It can be toxic food for horses. They may feel discomfort after meat consumption, and that can sometimes lead to damages to the intestinal flora.  

Also, be aware that your horse will not understand what has made them ill. If you give the animal meat and other snacks that have made them sick, they will continue eating these foods out of pure enjoyment. 

Horses can be vulnerable, so it is vital to monitor your animal's treat intake. Make sure they only eat snacks in small amounts and not all the time. 

Do Give Them Plenty of Water

Water is an essential part of any animal's diet. On average, horses drink 5-10 gallons per day.

For horses, some of their water comes from the grasses they consume. Fresh pasture has an abundance of water. 

The seasons also can affect their water consumption. In the summer, when they have access to fresh pasture, they may seem to drink less of the water you provide. But in the winter, when they eat more hay, there will be less water in their horse food. 

Make sure you regularly check that your horse has a supply of fresh drinking water. Without water, a horse can only survive up to six days.

Conclusion 

Hopefully, with this article, you have a solid grasp of what to feed your horse and the dos and don'ts of horse feeding. There are many things you can do to ensure that your horse lives a happy and healthy life.

Providing nutritious and tasty horse food is one of the best things you can do to support your four-legged companion. By giving your horse a balanced diet and adequate exercise, you will be well on your way to having the healthiest horse around. 

 

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