Horse Nutrition is NOT One-Size-Fits-All
Making sure your horse is receiving optimal nutrition is not for the faint of heart.
Hay needs to be tested. Choosing the best feed can be hard. And the list of equine supplements on the market is simply mind boggling.
Dells Equine Veterinary Service can help you create a personalized feeding plan that not only elevates your horse’s health and performance, but it can bring you peace of mind and give you more time to enjoy your horse!
The nutritional needs of each horse depend on their lifestyle and their overall health and wellness. Horse nutrition can be divided into six different categories: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water.
Your horse’s essential daily nutrition can come from a variety of sources. We often see the following combinations of feed sources being provided to our patients.
HAY is a forage, and forage should make up the majority of your horse’s diet. Different types of hay are best for different situations:
- Alfalfa hay, which is usually best for horses in high work environments or other situations like lactating mares where their caloric requirements and energy need is high
- Grass hay is great for easy keepers or horses in light work.
Most of the hay’s nutrients come from the leaves, so hay should have more leaves than stems. All hay should be tested to make sure it contains essential nutrients for horses. (read more here about the DEV Hay Testing program).
PASTURE is a fabulous source of forage and can provide many of the energy, vitamin, protein, and mineral needs for your horse. But a pasture must be well-managed to provide optimal nutrition, and it’s important that the pasture isn’t too lush or too long, especially in the spring.
CONCENTRATES such as corn, oats, and barley are generally lower in fiber and higher in energy than hay or pasture. Keep in mind that feeding too many concentrates can cause inflammation of the intestines.
SUPPLEMENTS may or may not be something you want to add to your horse’s diet, and you should only add them if your horse’s diet is missing something. As well, don’t believe everything you read on the internet about horse supplements. Advertising copy does a good job of convincing horse owners that a supplement is absolutely necessary, when in fact it might be completely useless or even dangerous for your horse.
COMMERCIAL FEED can be a mixture of grains and supplements added to increase the nutrient content in the mixture. “Complete feed” is usually a grain mix that is high in fiber. There are also feeds that can be specific to the age or lifestyle of your horse. But some commercial feeds use low-quality ingredients that add little value to your horse's overall nutrition.
Almost as important as what you feed is when you feed. No matter the lifestyle or age of your horse, their feeding schedule must remain consistent. Free choice grazing is ideal for your horse’s digestive tract. If you must limit the amount they forage or graze, it’s always best to feed multiple meals throughout the day instead of one or two big meals.
So what’s a horse owner to do? That’s a great question!
The BEST course of action is to discuss your horse's nutrition with Dr. Suzanne during your next appointment. We can also schedule a virtual appointment with her to create a nutrition plan for your horse. She can help you formulate a nutritional plan specific to your horse’s lifestyle and general health and wellness.