Most horse owners love to feed their horses. It’s fun to watch your horse enjoy his meals and come to you when he sees you with the feed bucket. But when it comes to planning your horse’s diet, it’s easy to make a mistake. Avoid these 10 common feeding mistakes.
As horse owners, we like to take care of our animals, and that often means providing them with the best feed possible. However, it can be easy to overdo it with feeding. Overfeeding can lead to obesity problems, including equine metabolic syndrome, and can trigger laminitis. If you become a master chef for a horse that has no unusual or special feeding requirements, you run the risk of overfeeding. Most horses need a very simple diet of good pasture or hay, and only need supplements or concentrates if there is a nutrient deficiency. There is no need to mix and cook mashed bran, chop carrots and serve elaborate meals. It is a good idea to have the hay analyzed, as it can tell you what types of supplements to give your horse.
Overfeeding is a particular problem in young horses. While it is tempting to keep your weanling or yearling horse well-fat, growing too fast can lead to joint deformities. Your young horse will benefit from slow, steady growth, regular parasite control, and adequate exercise to keep him lean and fit.
Underfeeding can be a problem in older and hard-working horses. Hard-working horses can be expected to be thin, but they should not look thin. If hay or pasture is not enough to keep your working horse in good condition, you should turn to concentrates to make up the deficit. Remember, however, that the majority of your horse’s diet should be grass or hay. Insufficient feeding of hay or pasture and overfeeding of grains and concentrates can cause colic.
3. Insufficient pasture
It is easy to look at a pasture from a distance and think it is lush and green. However, upon closer inspection, you may find that the pasture is covered with unwanted weeds. This means horses have to work harder to find enough food and may start eating the less nutritious and sometimes poisonous weeds. Take care of your pastures to provide good pastures for your horses.
4. Bad hay
Buying hay can be tricky, but it’s worth paying attention to because bad hay can cause all kinds of problems. Hay can be nutritionally deficient. Some types of hay are not suitable for horses and can cause colic. Dusty, moldy hay can be detrimental to your horse’s lungs and overall health.
5. Calculate by volume and not by weight.
It is important to feed both hays and concentrates by weight and not by volume. Although it is difficult to determine the weight of hay your horse will eat if he eats freely from a round bale, you can estimate the weight of hay your horse will eat if you use small square bales. Why is this important? Owners often give their horses a few flakes of hay at each feeding. But not all small squares weigh the same.
Weighing grain concentrates is also important. Most animal owners use the scoop method. However, feed manufacturers recommend feeding by weight and calculating recommended ratios based on body weight. If you only use a sense of proportion, you may underfeed or overfeed your horse. Weigh the portions at least once to calculate the recommended amount for your horse, and then mark the scoop so you know you’re giving the same amount each time.
At best, overfeeding with supplements is a waste of money. At worst, overfeeding vitamins and minerals can cause an imbalance.
Before giving vitamin or mineral supplements, have the hay tested and check the ingredients of your concentrate feed.
7. Neglect of parasite control
Some internal parasites compete with your horse for the feed they ingest. A regular deworming program can eliminate harmful parasites that can steal nutrients and damage your horse’s internal organs.
8. Ignore dental problems
Even though dental problems in horses are not a feeding problem, your horse will not be able to eat all the food it needs if it cannot chew properly. This is especially common in older horses, which may have loose or missing teeth. In adult horses, hooks and sharp edges can form on the teeth, which can make chewing painful. Regular dental care is a necessity.
9. Insufficient water supply
An adequate supply of clean water is essential to your horse’s health. Impaction colic can occur if your horse, especially a horse that only has access to hay, is not well hydrated. Very cold water can keep horses from drinking in the winter, and it’s not surprising that impaction colic is most common during this time. A trough warmer or half bucket of warm and cold water is a good way to make sure your horse doesn’t have to drink ice cold water.
10. Do not give salt
Salt is important to maintain your horse’s electrolyte balance. Some people put loose salt in their horse’s feed. Be careful not to “oversalt.” Most horses can self-regulate with a salt block in the barn or pasture.