A-to-Z of Horse Feed
Your favorite horse’s health depends on what and how much he eats.
Young Rider Staff |
March 19, 2004
Your horse must have vitamin A in his diet. Vitamin A is found in fresh plants. If your horse eats lots of green and leafy grass and hay, he should get enough vitamin A. Ponies that lack vitamin A have dull coats, weepy eyes and brittle hooves. They may get sick a lot. If your horse is stabled or in a pen, make sure he eats lots of succulents like apples and carrots because they contain vitamin A.
A rich, nutritious hay which gives a horse lots of energy.
Biotin is one of the very important B vitamins. It’s found in grass and vegetables and in grains which are high in protein. It’s necessary for good hoof formation and healthy horn growth. If your horse’s hooves are brittle, add a biotin supplement to his feed.
Calcium is essential for strong, healthy bones. Most complete feeds (sweet feeds or pellets) contain the correct amount of calcium for your horse.
In the past, people fed their ponies bran mashes (bran and warm water) as a pick-me-up after a hard day’s work. It also acts as a laxative. But now we know that bran is high in phosphorous which can affect the calcium levels in your pony’s body. If you feed your pony too much bran his diet becomes unbalanced. If your pony isn’t constipated, there’s no reason to feed him bran.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for a horse. They are found in vegetable tissue and come in three forms: sugar, starch and cellulose (fiber.) They give a horse energy. Sugar comes from green grass and many grains. Cellulose occurs in grass, hay and straw. Starch is found in carrots and many grains.
Complete feeds are a mix of grains such as barley, oats and corn. They contain all of the vitamins and minerals a horse needs. They are easy to use because manufacturers tell you how much to feed your horse. Combined with hay or grass, complete feeds should give your horse a well-rounded diet.
Electrolytes are supplements generally given to competition horses. They combine minerals— including chloride, sodium and potassium—that a horse needs to stay healthy. If your horse has access to loose salt or a salt block and a nutritious diet, it’s unlikely he will need electrolytes, but if he does lots of work—for instance, if he’s an eventer—he may need these minerals replenished. Horses that live in hot weather and sweat a lot may also need them.
Fat is an energy source, and it keeps your horse’s body tissues healthy. Most ready-mixed feeds will contain the correct amount of fat to keep your horse feeling good.
A horse’s natural diet. Grass has almost all the vitamins and nutrients he needs to stay healthy. In the wild, horses can live happily on an unlimited supply of grass and water.
Hay is grass that has been cut and dried, usually in the summer when it’s most nutritious. It’s usually stored in bales. If a horse doesn’t get much work, he may thrive on a diet of hay only—if the hay is nutritious.
Hay, usually alfalfa, that has been ground up, dried and compressed into cubes or pellets. They can be fed to a horse if you can’t get hay. Sometimes cubes are the only food given to a horse.
Pellets can be fed as a complete feed, along with hay, to your horse. They are a mixture of crushed grains, vitamins and minerals. Throw a few carrots and apples in with them to spice up your horse’s mealtimes.
Salt is an essential mineral; a horse loses it when he sweats during exercise or in hot weather. Some feeds have salt in them, but if your horse does a lot of work in warm weather, he may need more. A horse normally requires 1-2 ounces of salt a day. A stressed-out horse may need even more! Put a salt block in your horse’s field or stable so he can lick it whenever he wants or add an ounce or two of loose salt to his daily diet.
A by-product of sugar. It comes in pellets or shreds which can be soaked for a few hours in water before feeding to make it more palatable. It’s good roughage and often given to skinny horses to help them gain weight.
Succulents are juicy foods like apples and carrots. They are tasty and add variety and moisture to your pony’s diet.
A complete feed containing different types of grain, moistened with molasses to make it extra tasty.
A type of hay that is very leafy and coarse. It is low in energy and moderately nutritious.
Unlimited access to fresh, clean water in his stall and field is absolutely essential to your horse’s good health. If he doesn’t get enough, he could become dehydrated, lose his appetite or even colic.
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A-to-Z of Horse Feed