Horses have unique feeding and nutrition needs in the mammal world, and a good understanding of how they digest and use food is necessary to keeping your horse healthy. First of all, the horse’s large size belies its relatively small stomach. Its digestive system was designed to digest small amounts of forage all day long—not for eating two or three large meals at fixed times during the day.
We at Upper Valley Equine believe that slow feeding hay nets help with this endeavor and are learning new ways in which to offer horses this sort of feeder all of the time. Our clients have become very creative and though we realize all clients have different stabling layouts and feeding time frames we consistently work with each individual farm to come up with solutions that are workable to this feeding style.
Also, the horse’s digestive tract is very sensitive to impurities. Because they cannot vomit, there is no way for horses to quickly eliminate contaminated food from their bodies. This can lead to colic, which is extremely painful and can be deadly. So it is important to provide your horse a clean, slow and steady supply of nutritious food and plenty of clean, fresh water. The horse’s long, complex and sensitive digestive tract also requires that you never abruptly change his or her diet.
Horse Nutrition Needs at Various Life Stages
Your horse needs the following basic nutritional elements to stay healthy: water, carbohydrates and fats(for energy), protein (for tissue support), minerals and vitamins.
It is important to ensure that a clean, bacteria- and algae-free source of fresh water is constantly available to your horse all day, all year round to prevent dehydration. Keeping your horse well watered in the summer is important, but also be sure that your horse’s water source does not freeze in the winter.
Typically, horses get their energy from eating grasses and hay in small amounts throughout the day. Today, horse feed concentrates are often added and usually include grains such as oats, barley, corn and wheat. Not all horses have the same energy intake requirements. Evaluation of each individuals needs by Dr. Clapp can ensure long healthy lives for the geriatric to proper growth in foals. It is important to find the right balance for your horse by working with us to find the correct nutritional options no matter what discipline they are being used for. Any sudden changes in diet, particularly a rise in the level of sugars and starches, can lead to dangerous colic, colitis or laminitis.
The right balance of vitamins and minerals is essential to the overall health of your horse. It is commonly necessary to supplement a horse’s feed with certain vitamins due to geographical area having low values in the soil and therefor hay. Testing is important as some minerals will be in the toxic zone if supplemented without knowing where your horses levels are at.
The key to your horse getting the right nutritional balance for good health is to talk with us and get recommendations for your horse based on his or her lifestyle and health concerns.