Leisure horses: good nutrition practices

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Leisure horses: good nutrition practices

How should you manage your horse’s diet at home


Planning your horse’s diet at home

If you are going to keep your horse on your property, you will need to take certain precautions when managing its diet. First, you will need somewhere to store its feed (hay, pellets, flaked feed). This storage space should be closed to protect the feed from humidity, excessive heat, and rodents. Depending on the available storage space, choose large round bales or small rectangular bales which are easier to handle and distribute.

You will also require a source of water (pond, river, etc.), a drinker if there is a mains water supply, or a container that is large enough to hold enough water for the day (between 20 and 40 litres per day). The water needs to be changed regularly to ensure that it is drinkable. In winter, make sure that the water has not frozen, and, if need be, break the ice. If you can heat the water up a bit, this would be ideal because drinking water that is too cold can cause colic in horses.


Calculate the feed ration for your horse

If your horse has access to a field with a lot of grass in it, this should constitute most of its diet which you can supplement with hay (5 to 10 kg/day for a horse weighing 500 kg). If your horse is regularly exercised, its diet needs to be adapted accordingly to meet its energy requirements, such as with horse pellets or flaked feed. Horse feed contains cereal and protein to allow a horse to work or to supplement medium to poor quality hay. You need to know your horse’s weight to compose its ration. How do you weigh a horse without going to a veterinary clinic? The commonly-used formula uses the height of the withers (H) and the heart girth (P). The formula is as follows:

Weight calculation: (4.3 x P) + (3 x H) – 785 = horse weight

Once you know your horse’s weight, you can calculate its ration. Its physiology (such as breed, some horses/ponies require a more restricted diet than other breeds, age, and body condition), its workload (light, moderate, intense), quality of pasture grass, and climatic conditions also need to be considered. The ration should therefore be calculated on a case-by-case basis for each horse.


Select your horse’s feed


Once you have chosen your feed crop, you need to choose the concentrated feed: horse pellets or flaked feed. The main difference in these two types of feed is how they are prepared. For horse pellets, the ingredients are mixed, crushed, and pressed. For flaked feed, some ingredients, such as cereal, remain whole. Flaked feed has a slightly longer ingestion time, which promotes salivation. They can also be more palatable for your horse due to the molasses coating which is often added to them. It is also observed that flaking improves starch digestibility. However, the composition and nutritional value of the two types of horse feed are generally similar.

All this process: weight evaluation and choice of horse feed, is facilitated by the free Royal Horse application.

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