Horses are among the most powerful and intelligent animals on the planet, best known for their speed which can reach up to 40-48 km/h. When you decide to adopt or buy a horse there are numerous questions you should ask yourself before committing to such a responsibility. Among these, what will be the best diet for a healthy and active horse. Keep reading to get some useful information on this wonderful animal and its dietary requirements.
With more than 300 horse breeds all differing in size, colour and temperament there is a vast choice of equids that can make for the perfect pet. Horse breeds are usually divided into three categories based on general temperament: spirited "hot bloods" with speed and endurance; "cold bloods", such as draft horses and some ponies, suitable for slow, heavy work; and "warmbloods", developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods, often focusing on creating breeds for specific riding purposes, particularly in Europe.
The average weight of a horse spans from 840 to 1210 lb (380-1000 kg) while the average height is approximately between 55-72 in (140-180 cm). Horses are long-lived pets that can reach 25-30 years of age.
Feeding your Horse
First of all, when you purchase a horse you need to set a horse diet plan. To do this, consult with the breeder and maybe even the veterinarian who will be able to recommend the best choice for the particular horse breed. As all living beings, each horse has different dietary requirements based on its age, size and activity level as well as any health conditions. Understand your horse’s nutritional need: a large part of how much it eats will depend on its size. Always seek for professional advice so that you can understand how much protein and carbohydrates it needs and feed your pet accordingly.
Another essential factor to keep in mind is the amount of work your horse does: once you have fully understood this you will be able to choose the right type of food to suit the energy levels of your equid. A horse’s level of activity can change with age or due to physical conditions: horse owners will need to adjust the food ratio accordingly and gradually in order to avoid affecting their pet's digestive system and overall health.
Most horses can feed on forage, water and a salt or mineral block. Equids can consume up to 2-2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day. Although hay is usually the most common component in a horse’s diet, there are three types of feed that equid owners may choose for their pet: forage (legumes or grasses found in pastures or hay), concentrates (whole or crushed grains like oats and corn) and supplements (soybean, linseed or cottonseed meal). Grains can also be added in small amounts and under veterinary advice. All hay and concentrated feeds must be kept dry and free of mould, rodent feces, and other types of contamination that may cause illness such as botulism in your horse. Before committing to buying or adopting a horse, make sure you have carefully considered the storage space available in your home will be adequate.
Feeding and Exercise
Carefully calculate the total daily intake necessary for your horse to be active and healthy without overfeeding it. You may use a specific equine feed calculator to figure out the appropriate amount and ratio or seek professional advice.
Never feed your horse before or immediately after exercise and wait at least an hour before riding it. Equids can become a bit anxious if there is too much time between meals so make sure you follow a strict regime and maintain a regular feeding schedule. Always ensure your horse has plenty of clean, fresh water available so to keep it hydrated throughout the day. A peculiarity in horses is that they must be able to cool off after a work out before drinking water. Allow between 30-90 minutes, depending on the amount of exercise performed and the temperature outside before letting your pet drink all the water it wants.
If you are training your horse, treats are the best way to reward it for doing the right thing. On top of being a great way of bonding with your pet they can also be a good source of nutrition. Fresh apples, carrots, watermelon and green beans all make for ideal food rewards. Determine what type of weight gain you want for your horse based on its stage in life (i.e growing, pregnant, working, older horse). For example, if your horse has some health issue and you want it to gain weight make small changes to your horse’s meals according to the specific health requirements. Never guess or estimate the diet for your horse and refer to an experienced vet instead.
Improper feeding related illnesses
Horses can be subject to a number of illnesses related to improper feeding such as colic, chokes, laminitis, growth disorders, heaves and Equine Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (more commonly known as “tying up”). All of these disorders can be life-threatening to your pet and veterinary care should be sought as soon as any symptom arise.
Always take advice from a professional vet in relation to your horse diet. This way you can be sure all factors are taken into account and your pet will grow strong, healthy and happy.
Author: Marino Tilatti
Member of PetsForAll Editorial Stuff
Posted in these categories: Breeder, Trainer, Boarding, Vet, For Sale, For Adoption, For Stud, Wanted, Horses, Horses, Andalusian, Appaloosa, Arabian Horses, Clydesdale, Dressage Horses, Friesian Horses, Ponies, Quarter horse, Race Horses, Shetland Pony, Shire Horses, Thoroughbred
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