The basics of nutrition are simple, your horse requires a certain amount of water, energy, protein etc on a daily basis and Vitamins and Minerals over a longer time period, and this is what we feed for.
Consume more energy/calories than you need and you will put on weight and develop health issues, consume too little and you will lose weight and develop other health issues. Easy peasy.
In the wild horses are forage feeders, meaning they eat little and often and this includes poor grass, rich grass, occasional fruit, and herbs and shrubs. Their body weight will fluctuate through the seasons and they will walk over 15km a day! Yet we as owners get very concerned over diet, often worrying about things like colic, tying up, ulcers etc, and this is mainly because of the way we have domesticated and bred horses. They eat what they are given, usually twice a day. They are provided with only 1 or 2 forages (hay/grass), and they have limited access to this forage and/or other food. They are also wormed and vaccinated routinely, affecting their digestive tracts. However, all of this is often because a domesticated horse has more expectations placed upon it exercise wise than wild horses.
How much does your horse weigh?
Before looking at Nutrition, it is important that you find out how much your horse weighs, this means you can see how exactly the diet may need to be altered in association with any health issues. You can work this out in several ways. Taking your horse to a horse weighbridge or use a weight tape are easiest. Knowing your horse’s weight is essential if a correct feeding level is to be achieved. Research found that over 50% of owners under estimated their horse’s body condition score, believing their horse was “thinner” than they really were. It is good horse husbandry to fat score your horse regularly. You can easily find fat score sheets online.
We all aim for good nutrition but often forget the simple rules for feeding our beloved horses; this may be due to time, facilities, and opportunities.
Fats and Oils: