We can feed horses to maximize stamina and power, prevent digestive disorders, avoid metabolic disorders, prevent attacks caused by genetic diseases, grow horses to be sound throughout life — the list goes on and on. Trying to wrap one’s mind around all of these issues can be intimidating at best, even for equine nutritionists, let alone the average horse owner. However, we will begin with the basics, and then build to more complicated ideas.
We have talked about what information should be included on a feed tag, regardless of type of feed. In this article we will put that information into use to aid you in selecting the best (and perhaps most economical) feed for you to use. So let’s start with what the guaranteed analysis means to you.
The last article briefly discussed the horse’s gastrointestinal system and the challenge it presents to feeding management. This month we will discuss a specific disorder, equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Just like us, horses can suffer from painful gastric ulcers which can lower their performance ability, and certainly their overall health and well being. Due to their unique physiology they may be even more susceptible to ulcers than other domestic animals. Symptoms of ulcers include decreased feed intake, lowered performance, a rough hair coat, laying down excessively or even grinding their teeth.
Now that we have finished our discussion concerning our horses energy requirements, we are going to turn our attention to how best to deliver those calories to our horses. Over the next few months, we will discuss many confusing issues facing horse owners concerning the type, quantity, and quality of our feeds. As horse owners are barraged with information concerning grazing, metabolic syndrome, obesity and ulcers, it is sometimes easy to get lost in the conflicting information. So we are going to take it step by step, and do our best to understand these complex issues.
In our previous series we discussed the energy needs of horses, how they are calculated, how they differ between classes or types of horses, and how your feeding strategies should reflect the energy needs of the horse. For this series, we are going to switch gears a little, and focus on understanding commercial feed tags. In today’s equine feed market, there are an overwhelming number of feeds and types of feeds available to select for your horse. It certainly can be bit confusing at times. Our goal is to clear up some of the confusion and allow you to make the best choices based on your horse’s needs.
Last month we discussed how much hay you should actually tuck away before winter. You don’t want to run out before that first cutting rolls around in June! But what about the quality of that hay? This month we will talk about what to look for in a quality hay; what things you don’t have to be so strict about in terms of quality, and what makes the most economical sense.
As this is the time of the year that hay fields are being cut and the days are already getting shorter, it is time to be filling your barns or sheds with hay for the upcoming year. This month we will learn how to estimate your hay needs so that you don’t find yourself short come April or May.
This month we will return to discussions of nutrient requirement for horses. Remember we discussed energy needs for horses in the earlier articles: Equine Energy Requirements, Energy for Work, and Broodmares and Babies. Now we will look more closely at other nutrient requirements, beginning with mineral requirements. Minerals are involved in a variety of functions in the body, including enzymes, structural components, energy transfer and acid base balance. Minerals are also incorporated into vitamins, amino acids, and hormones.
Last month we took a more in depth look at the calcium requirements for horses. This month we will look at phosphorous needs in the horse, and then put it all together in formulating some diets for horses.
Greetings again fellow horse owners! Hopefully everyone has had a chance over the last few months to start thinking about mineral requirements for horses in mathematical terms. To review, we have discussed the importance of Ca and P, especially in consideration of broodmares and young, growing horses. We have worked on calculating the Ca to P ratio you are providing in your diet, as well as comparing the total amount fed to the animal’s requirements. The suggested daily intake of Ca and P has been provided in tabular form, as well as some common feedstuffs’ concentration of these two minerals.