As a horse owner, you probably know about the rules of feeding, however do you know why they are so important? Below is a reminder of the 10 golden rules of feeding your horses and ponies and why they matter.
1. Provide fresh clean water at all times
Water is the most important nutrient in your horses’ diet. It’s used by every cell in their body, they can’t survive without it. An idle, 500kg horse, will drink approximately 25 litres of water per day and hot weather/exercise, will increase requirements.
2. Always weigh feeds
Horses should be fed by weight, not volume and feeds have different densities, so a scoop of one feed may weigh more/less than the same scoop of another.
3. Feed little and often
Horses are naturally trickle feeders and have pretty small (about the size of a rugby ball), inelastic stomachs which work best when 2/3 full. You should feed no more than 2kg per meal for horses (400kg and over) and less for ponies.
4. Use quality feeds
Dusty or mouldy feed isn’t good and can lead to respiratory problems or colic. Store feed in cool, dark places, within containers fury pests can’t get into. Also, nutrient value of feed can only be guaranteed until the best before date on the bag.
5. Feed according to bodyweight
Your horse’s nutrient requirements are determined by their bodyweight, which means the amount of feed they need will be determined by bodyweight also.
6. Make changes gradually, including forage!
Specialised microbes in your horses’ large intestine need time to adapt to changes in feedstuffs. If changes are made too quickly, your horse may be at risk of colic or, at the least, loose droppings! As a guide, replace 500g of old feed for 500g of new feed, every other day (for horses). Ideally replace 1kg of old hay/haylage for 1kg of new hay/haylage every other day and introduce new grass slowly.
7. Exercise and feeding
Exercise should be delayed for an hour following cereal based meals, however exercise can be commenced after fibre based meals; this is especially beneficial for gastric health, reducing the risk of gastric acid splashing up and damaging the stomach lining.
8. Feed at the same time each day
This one is really just to keep your hairy companion happy. Horses are creatures of habit and like routine.
9. Feed according to work done
Although you may think it’s only fair to offer more feed when workload is increasing, actually this can cause excess weight gain, excitability and conditions including colic and tying up. Cereal feeds particularly should be reduced on days off, as a guide, reduce by half from the evening before to the evening after a well-deserved rest.
10. Feed plenty of forage
Fibre is essential for maintaining digestive health, providing energy/calories and the absorption of nutrients. Forage should not be restricted to less than 1.5% of bodyweight per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse)
So if you didn’t already know, hopefully this has shed light on those traditional feeding rules you undoubtedly remember from your Pony Club days. For more information on the above and all your feeding queries don’t hesitate to contact the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 226626.