Nutrition Basics

Clients constantly ask me what type of grain they should feed their horse for weight gain or weight control, to avoid allergies etc.  In actual fact (unless one is feeding outrageous amounts of grain) this will have a minimal impact on the total diet.

Forages is where it is at; the bulk of the diet is or should be hay or grass, and that is where most of the carbohydrates, proteins and fiber will come from.  Adding something in a package to increase fiber intake when the whole diet is fiber based (grass/hay) makes little sense. Also wondering what the protein or carb content in one pound of grain is when the horse eats 25 pounds of hay is also not too relevant. Not trying to poke fun at anyone (OK, a little), but the point is to focus on and spend your money on good hay.

Beyond a good quality hay, a simple well balanced trace mineral supplement is important to ensure your horse is getting what it needs.  Ready access to clean water and salt and you’re all set.

Overweight Horses

Recommended Solution:
A proven low sugar hay. You cannot tell if the hay is low sugar by looking at it.  Often the browner local hay has higher sugar content than a green alfalfa mix.  Test it.  If that is not available you can lower sugar content by soaking hay for an hour before feeding.  Discard the ‘sugar water’ so the horse doesn’t drink it.  You can call us to have hay tested or to discuss results of hay tests.  We can also help you determine whether your horse needs to be on a low sugar hay.

Underweight Horses

Recommended Solution:
Hay with higher digestible energy is better.  Have your horse’s teeth checked to make sure they can chew efficiently.  Some older horses in particular have a hard time with the roughage. If they can’t chew hay well enough to maintain their weight a good solution is to put them on a ‘pre-chewed’ diet of alfalfa cubes and beet pulp.  Soak the cubes and beet pulp till they are mush.  Feed to where the horse is in good body condition.  This will usually require several big buckets per day.  Remember you are replacing and intake of about 20-25 lbs of hay.

Does my horse have an allergic reaction to its feed?
A possible sign of an allergic reaction to feed is when your horse squirts liquid from his rectum after a more or less normal bowel movement  or has sloppy manure.    Other more rapid reactions could show up in the form of hives.

Recommended Solution:
There are tests to determine allergies in horses that we can provide, however simple test you can do first is to put your horse on a different type of hay (similar to putting a dog on a lamb and rice diet).  In the case of hives it would be best to call the office for a consultation and possibly examination and treatment.

My horse is having difficulty breathing.

Horses may have difficulty breathing due to dusty hay, allergies or infectious causes.

Recommended Solution:
Be sure to feed your horse good clean hay as opposed to dusty hay. Be careful about baled hay in plastic as it contains a higher moisture level and can develop mold in the packaging. To reduce the dust in hay, soak it prior to feeding. Please call us for advice if your horse has trouble breathing for any reason.  Not dealing with it can be very distressing for the horse and even if it isn’t life threatening like a mild reaction to dust or mold, can cause lung damage if left untreated.