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Feeding Your Horse

What you feed your horse affects his health and how he behaves.

Hay Cubes

Did you know that what you feed your horse affects how he looks and acts? That's why it is so important to choose a feed that's suitable for your individual horse. No two horses or ponies are alike when it comes to meal times. They have different feeding requirements. Your horse may be the same size and shape as another horse, but he may need to eat totally different foods.

What and how much you feed your horse depends on several things:

  1. His size
  2. The type of pony he is (Is he a highly-strung Thoroughbred or a placid mixed breed?)
  3. His workload (Is he in constant training or do you ride him twice a week?)
  4. How he's kept (Does he come into a stable at night or does he stay out in the field all of the time?)
  5. The weather in your area (Do you live in a warm or cold area?)
  6. His personality (Is he calm or nervous?)

A horse that is ridden a lot may need more food than a horse that stays in a field all of the time. A horse in a cold climate needs more food than one in a mild area, because he used more energy to keep warm.

Let's take a look at some different horses and figure out what kind of diet they need. Remember to talk to your vet before you adjust your horse's diet, and make any changes gradually.

Nervous Ned
Ned has far too much energy. He spends a lot of time spooking at things and racing around at top speed when you want him to go slowly. He needs a low-energy diet — one without oats. Oats are full of energy, and can make a horse loopy sometimes. Go to the feed store and look at the ingredient labels on the feed sacks. If oats are the first ingredient on the list, look for another feed. Ned will probably calm down a bit if he is fed a pelleted feed. Pellets are usually low in oats, and they're not coated with sugary molasses like sweet feeds. As for hay, don't feed Ned high-protein alfalfa. He'll stay quieter if he eats grass hay.

Skinny Minnie
Before you change skinny Minnie's diet, she needs to be checked by the vet. There might be a medical reason making her thin. If she's okay, worm her and get her teeth rasped. Go to the feed store and find a feed that is high in fat, for example, 4 percent. Add shredded beet pulp to her diet. Beet pulp is high in fiber. Soak the shreds in water for a few hours. Never feed them dry. Add about two cups of soaked sugar beet to each meal. You can also add a half-cup of corn oil to each meal too. Corn oil is full of fat. And give her a high-protein hay like alfalfa.

Chubby Chancer
Chancer only has to look at a blade of tasty grass, and he gains weight! He'll be healthier if he slims down, but don't starve him to death. He should be fed just as much as other horses, but he should be on a special diet. Look on ingredient tags for a feed with a low fat content such as 2 percent. Give him a pelleted feed instead of a sweet feed coated with molasses. Jazz up his pellets with a few apples and carrots. Feed him grass hay.

Slowpoke Sam
Sam plods around like a snail. He needs some energy added to his diet. Switch him to a feed with a higher protein content. Look for 12 percent protein on the ingredient label. If oats are the first ingredient on the lists, that's okay. A few oats won't hurt Sam. Since many slowpokes are often overweight, give him a mixture of high-protein alfalfa hay to keep his energy levels up and grass hay to make him feel full.

Showjumper Star
Star is ridden almost every day, and he competes at a lot of shows. He needs lots of energy for jumping, so his diet must be rich in protein. Look for a feed that is high in fat (4 percent) and protein (14 percent), two things that give a horse energy, and make him look and feel good. Check that the feed has oats and corn in it. The feed should also contain vitamins and minerals that will help to keep Star healthy. Give him a half-cup of corn oil with every meal. Oils are full of carbohydrates, a great source of energy. A horse that is ridden a lot like Star should be fed a high-protein hay like alfalfa.



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