Equine Nutrition Basics
The healthy resting horse can get all required nutrients from good quality hay and/or pasture along with supplemental vitamins and minerals,
including salt, and water.
How much to Feed?
On average, 1.5% of the ideal body weight total. For a lot of Quarter Horses, that is too much. So 12 pounds for a 1000 pound QH when not being
used may be enough hay, plus 1/2 pound of a low carb concentrate with vitamin/mineral supplement twice daily. Free choice white salt blocks should
always be available.
In winter, the fermentation and digestion of hay create more heat for the horse than do concentrates or grains. Remember to increase hay 2 pounds after 7 pm on nights when temp will be under 10 degrees and add another 2 pounds if below zero.
Working horses require more energy for work and more protein to repair muscle tissue. Remember to add 1/2 pound of your horse’s concentrate for every two hours of moderate exercise.
Growing horses need more energy than forages alone can provide and they have specific requirements for certain protein amino acids that are not met by forages. Use quality feeds designed for growth in last half of pregnancy, creep feeding foals, and horses under 2 years of age.
How Often to feed?
Because the horse has a relatively small stomach and constantly produces digestive acids, horses should never go more than 12 hours without hay or grass.
They are designed to eat 14 hours or more daily, so 3-4 feedings is much better for the horse than 2 larger ones.
Long-term feeding of grains, molasses, and grain mixes with molasses (like 4-way, sweet feeds) leads to insulin resistance and unnatural
feeding-fasting cycles of high blood sugar and high insulin in horses, and developmental orthopedic diseases in youngsters. Avoid high carbohydrate
feeds such as "sweet feed," molasses, corn, and barley, and “4-way”. Excess carbohydrates can also lead to laminitis (founder).
Horses prone to laminitis (founder) should have very limited access to grass, and only in early morning. After the first fall frost, they should be
kept off of the pasture completely. Hays should be tested for carbohydrate levels (some of the rye hay around here is dangerous!)
After a three week adaptation, dietary fat has a sparing effect on muscle energy stores, creates less heat (sweat) in the working horse, has a
documented mellowing effect (fat does not create a "sugar high"), and reduces tying up in susceptible horses. Modern horse feeds are higher fat,
Water should always be available. Be sure cords on tank heaters are hidden or inside PVC or conduit to protect against electric shocks.
Check tank for (electrical) current leakage if horses quit drinking from one tank.
A white salt block should always be available.
Any feed change should be done over one-two weeks time. Even an abrupt change in hay cutting from the same source can cause colic.