Prepare Your Horse For The Winter Months

Toby Snow 28Throughout the year, tending to your horse’s needs requires you to be prepared for a variety of conditions. When the temperature falls and the winds grow colder, you should be prepared with the proper gear, supplies and accessories to keep your horse healthy and happy during the upcoming months. Learn more about caring for your horse during the winter so you can be prepared well before the first frost.

Water and Food

  • Food for Health and Warmth. Food digestion is a primary source of warmth for your horse, which means your horse’s caloric needs can increase during the colder months. Use quality forage, combined with grain, as recommended by an equine nutritionist to sustain warmth and maintain caloric intake.
  • Wintertime Hydration. Even though your horse might eat snow while it’s outside, fresh water is still important for wintertime hydration. A supply of (non-frozen) water, ideally above 45 degrees, will keep your horse hydrated and aid in digestion.
  • Mouth Health. Healthy teeth and mouth allow your horse to drink and eat without discomfort. It’s wise to have an equine veterinarian check your horse’s teeth and mouth to ensure he can eat comfortably and maintain the right caloric intake for weight maintenance throughout winter.

Comfort and Warmth

  • Your Horse’s Natural Coat. If possible, allow your horse’s coat to grow during the winter months. Its natural thickness provides your horse with the extra insulation needed to keep its body warm as the weather gets colder, as a layer of warm air is trapped below the surface.
  • Provide Extra Warmth. There are times when you must clip your horse’s coat to keep them cool while working in the winter or in preparation for a show . For this reason, or because you’ve got an older horse, extra warmth can increase the horse’s comfort throughout winter. A waterproof, breathable blanket or coat will come in handy for days when your horse needs an extra layer to stay warm.
  • Shelter During Winter. The warmest natural coat isn’t always enough to protect your horse from cold temperatures. A strong wind can cut right through it, and a wet coat can quickly lose its insulating ability. Provide your horse with shelter from wind, snow and rain so it can enjoy pasture time and still have access to an area that will protect it from the elements.
  • Wintertime Riding. When riding your horse during the winter months, be careful to warm them up properly and ensure any sweaty areas are fully dried since this can cause the horse to later become chilled. Likewise, maintain care of horse riding tack and the proper saddle so that it doesn’t become cracked and dry from the cold air, causing it to become less effective.

Tending to Health

  • Controlling Parasites. Consult with the equine veterinarian for wintertime parasite control. Once the first frost has occurred, you may want to give your horse something to kill bot larvae.
  • Barn Pest Control. People and horses aren’t the only creatures that seek warm places in wintertime. Other pests are likely to find their way into the barn. Discourage and control pests by keeping food storage in sealed containers. Likewise, store blankets, leather products and other materials that could be used for nests in sealed storage spaces.
  • Vaccinations. Good health is pivotal to staying comfortable and warm from the first frost until the temperatures begin to rise again. Part of your effort to maintain your horse’s health should include any necessary vaccinations as autumn transitions to winter.
  • Take Care of Hooves. Hoof growth occurs throughout the year. Maintain hoof care year-round. Consider having your farrier use winter studs for traction and snowball pads to keep snow from accumulating inside the bottom of the hoof.

Wintertime Storage

Make it easy to access everything you need throughout the winter months by putting away the seasonal items you won’t need again until spring. By organizing your barn storage space, you can avoid wasting time searching for supplies and spend it grooming or caring for your horse. In conjunction with preparing your horse for winter, you can also be prepared by getting organized and ready to spend quality time with your equine friend this winter.

Ashly Snell works at Dover Saddlery and has been an avid equestrian for 20 years. She currently enjoys eventing with and caring for her two Dutch Warmbloods.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

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Do You Know the Feeding Rate For Your Horse Feed?

scooping feedI was visiting with some friends at a recent horse owners meeting. I saw a trainer I had visited several times in the past few years, answering nutrition questions and making recommendations. I asked how his horses were doing and if he had made any changes to his feed program. He replied that he had switched to a competitor’s product a few months ago and the results were terrible. His horses had lost weight, their coats were dull and he went back to feeding his old mill mix.

I asked which product he was feeding in particular and if he was feeding it to all of his horses? He had chosen a product that was designed for maintenance level horses, not show horses or breeding stock. For horses working harder an added supplementation and proper feed rates would be imperative.

Although I was disappointed he hadn’t tried Nutrena products, I went on to ask if he followed the directions on the tag? He responded that he can never figure out all that garbage on the tag and fed his horses as he always does. There was part of the problem!

A feed tag will give you a statement of purpose, what type of horse and life style it is formulated to be fed. Next it will list the recommended feed rate. This can vary from 1/4 pound to 2 pounds per hundred pounds of body weight, depending on the fortification and quality of nutrients.

I was familiar with the product he had tried and their feed rate for horses working at a performance level would be 1.5 pounds per hundred pounds of body weight, or 15 pounds per day for a 1000 horse. This would have to be broken down into 3 feedings to be fed at a safe consumption rate, and could also mean added labor for his farm, not a bargain.

When I mentioned what I believed was the recommended feed rate for the product he was surprised. He said he would never feed that much of a concentrate to any horse. Again, he reiterated he doesn’t have time to read tags and do the math. I told him it is like making a box cake. You need to follow the directions, if you don’t use the entire box of cake mix, you won’t get the desired results. He did laugh at my remark, but I also think he understood the concept.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Posted in Feeding Management, Horse Feed, Horse Nutrition, Uncategorized
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Does My Horse Need a Diet or Exercise Change?

I recently taught an Equine Nutrition class to a group of seniors at an area college.  Our focus for the classroom lecture was dietary assessment by body condition scoring, weight and topline evaluation.   After the lecture I conducted a lab to apply hands on practice of what we had just reviewed.

One of the students asked if we could evaluate her horse during the lab session. The evaluation proved to be a classroom classic. The horse was a 4 year old Warmblood gelding. He was 17.1 hands and 1350 pounds. The horse at first glance appeared to be round and in good flesh, but as I ran my hands over his withers and back you could feel a lack of muscle and coverage.hand feeding red size

I asked the student what the horse’s current diet consisted of, she replied 20 pounds of first cutting hay per day and 8 pounds of locally grown oats. The calorie content of the diet appeared to be sufficient, however the amino acid balance was lacking. The student also mentioned she had her saddle recently refitted and the chiropractor out because the horse was having back issues.

With the move to college, the horse’s workload had increased and the need for additional fortification was obvious. I suggested that the student purchase a ration balancer to balance the needs of the young horse’s diet and help replenish his topline.

One of the students in the lab then challenged my recommendation.  She stated that she was an Equine Physiology major and felt my diagnosis was incorrect. She felt that by working the horse in a more collected manner, engaging his hind quarters and coming up under him would help to strengthen and develop his topline. She thought he looked fat and did not need to change his diet.

I went on to explain that the horse’s current diet was similar to a young child that would be on a straight rice diet, which is deficient in amino acids. You would see a round abdomen, but lack of muscle mass. If that child were getting ready to compete in a marathon, I doubt running extra laps would increase muscle mass, unless we supplemented the diet properly.

Again, your horse will tell you what is lacking in his diet, if you just take the time to look.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

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Blood Circulation Matters to Horses

Henry MusclesYour horse’s circulation impacts many areas of his life and health,  delivering oxygen and nutrients to every cell in his body while aiding in various body functions. Because of this, good circulation offers many tangible benefits. It helps to keep your horse’s muscles strong, ensure optimal hoof health, speed recovery after injury or disease, reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, and even improve your horse’s coat.

Here are the basics

With so much riding on good circulation (no pun intended) it’s important to aid that natural process in your horse as much as possible. Here are a few basic blood circulation improvement tips for your horse.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise is the first thing to consider if you want to maintain or improve your horse’s circulation. Regular exercise gets the muscles contracting and the heart pumping, thereby increasing blood flow to all your horse’s tissues and organs. On the correct footing, exercise helps to increase blood circulation to your horse’s hooves as well, encouraging proper formation and growth.
  • Grooming: Grooming should always be a part of your horse’s care routine. Brushing removes dirt, dead skin cells and shed hair, while also increasing blood flow to the skin, which will give your horse a healthier coat. Consider replacing metal or plastic curry combs with rubber ones. The rubber “fingers” on the comb work just as well and without the possibility of scratching your horse’s skin.
  • Massage: Massage is a great way to increase your horse’s circulation. It can benefit both the muscles and the skin, and is also a wonderful way to spend quality time with your horse. You can simply massage your horse’s back and shoulder muscles with your hands, just as you would a person. Watch your horse for clues as to what feels good and what doesn’t. Electric equine massagers are also available. Another option to consider is using a massaging gel pad under your saddle. This gives your horse a gentle massage every time you ride, encouraging blood flow to the muscles in his back while preventing saddle sores at the same time.
  • Relaxation: One unique aspect of the horse circulatory system, according to an article on Equimed.com, is the role the spleen plays in blood circulation. As in all mammals, your horse’s spleen removes damaged and diseased red and white blood cells from the blood. But, unlike in other animals, your horse’s spleen can enlarge and contract. In a relaxed state, the spleen enlarges, allowing in more blood and making it possible for the organ to work more efficiently as it cleans the blood. Continual stress can impede this process, since both stress and exercise cause the spleen to contract. By helping your horse into a relaxed state, you are allowing this normal and healthy process to take place. Relaxing activities might include brushing, massage, bathing or simply allowing your horse time to unwind in an open pasture.
  • Keep it cool: When your horse is overheated, according to an article on Horse & Rider, vessels in both his skin and lungs enlarge. This is the body’s natural attempt to shed excess body heat. Unfortunately, this also means that blood is being shunted away from your horse’s brain and major organs. By educating yourself on the dangers of overheating in horses and taking the necessary steps to prevent it, you are not only saving your horse from heat stress, you are also aiding his overall circulation.
  • High-tech options: Horse owners today have access to some amazing high-tech options for improving their horses’ circulation; options that weren’t available just a few years ago. Circulation-improving products include ceramic infused blankets designed to radiate body heat back into the muscles, vibrating stall floors and even hyperbaric chambers designed just for horses.

You know your horse and which of these techniques he will or won’t tolerate. Remember, even the most even-tempered horse can kick or bite when it feels provoked, so always approach your horse with reasonable caution.

Of course, you should also check with your veterinarian before adding any new process to your horse’s health care routine. Every horse has different needs and health issues; your vet can tell you which of the options discussed above are best for your horse’s individual needs.

Ashly Snell works at Dover Saddlery and enjoys eventing with and caring for her two Dutch Warmbloods. She has been an avid equestrian for 20 years.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

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Will Too Much Protein Cause Developmental Disorders in my Growing Horse?

Protein is a very important part of every horse’s diet.  Horses of all ages, developmental stages, activity levels, and reproductive status have essential amino acid requirements, amino acids being the building blocks of protein, and are what determine the quality of the protein.

Here’s an analogy:  consider amino acids as letters of the alphabet, and protein as words with structures such as muscle being the complete sentence.  Now put it all together; the combination of amino acids (letters) determines the quality or type of protein (word) that is formed.  The body is made up of many different types of proteins, all with distinct amino acid profiles.  If you have a shortage of or imbalance of the essential amino acids, the body cannot spell the words and complete the sentences, so the body can’t build and maintain quality tissues.

Consider this example:

  • 94% of a hoof is made up of amino acids (methionine for example)
  • The remaining 6% is comprised of fats, minerals and vitamins (biotin being just one of those vitamins)
  • Having protein or amino acid deficiency in the diet or feeding an unbalanced ration will compromise hoof integrity (brittle, soft, cracks, susceptibility to thrush, etc.).

cargill050aNow for the question above: Will protein cause developmental joint disease in my growing horse?

Growing horses have high nutrient requirements, with quality digestible protein (amino acids) being a very important and significant part of that nutrient requirement.

Confusion often occurs between providing nutrients and calories.  Providing a grain concentrate that is balanced for adult horses may provide too many calories (energy) and not enough of the nutrients (amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, vitamins ) the growing animal requires, for a couple reasons:

  1. Because unlike mature adult horses, youngsters cannot eat as much per meal (small stomach) and may never consume the recommended daily intake
  2. Because their hind-gut is immature (can’t digest/ferment forages very well) so they are unable to digest and absorb as many of the nutrients from forage as an adult horse does, leaving a nutrient gap in the total diet

The result is a mismatched calorie to nutrient ratio, with too many calories and not enough of the nutrients (amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, vitamins) that they need to grow and develop properly. High calories without the right amount and type of nutrients to support the rapidly growing animal can be problematic.  Resulting issues are often experienced as hay bellies, physitis, developmental joint disease (e.g. OCD), contracted tendons, etc.

Providing a diet balancer or a concentrate specifically designed to support growing horses is a great way to avoid the calorie to nutrient mismatch as well as provide digestible sources of those nutrients.  Diet balancers tend to be very dense in their protein, vitamins and mineral content, and very low in calories themselves.  This is why crude protein, for example, seems very high (e.g. CP 30%) in ration balancers and can cause concern among horse owners.  Fear not, feeding rates for these concentrated products are much lower than a traditional grain formula, providing all of the balanced nutrients needed in a volume that a small stomach can handle, without all of the extra energy.

Having too much poor quality protein in the diet will not be utilized by your horse, and may result in an amino acid deficiency, and makes for an ammonia filled barn due to excess nitrogen being excreted in the urine.  Having the right amount and combination of amino acids in the diet is key to supporting optimal growth and reducing metabolic waste.

Working with an equine nutritionist to find a horse feed that is specifically designed for growth and development and then following the manufacturer’s feeding directions should result in a practical and effective solution to ensure your youngster is getting the right balance of energy and nutrients, helping to avoid developmental issues and maximizing performance.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Posted in Horse Nutrition, Ingredients in Horse Feed, Mare & Foal Feed
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What are Essential Amino Acids in Protein, and Why Do They Matter?

Nutrition articles frequently refer to protein quality and essential amino acids. When we use the term crude protein, we are essentially talking about a calculation based on measured nitrogen. Protein is about 16% nitrogen by weight, so if we measure the amount of nitrogen and multiply it by 6.25, this gives us a measurement of crude protein. It does not tell us anything about the quality of the protein. If you tested pure nitrogen this way, it would be 625% protein!

Digestible protein is that amount of the protein that is actually digested by the animal. In an over simplified example, if you fed 100 grams of protein and measured 50 grams in the feces, the protein would be 50% digestible.

What is really important to simple stomached animals (horses included) is the content of essential amino acids in the protein. We commonly talk about 10 essential amino acids (EAA), the amino acids that must be in the diet as the animal cannot synthesize them. These are:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Arginine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

A common memory aid in many nutrition texts books is to use the first letters of these 10 as PVT TIM HALL. (All of you who had a non-ruminant nutrition course still remember this acronym!)

The other 12 amino acids can generally be synthesized in the body and do not need to be in the diet, although there must be a supply of appropriate substrate to produce them. Animal nutrition text books cover this topic in excellent detail.

Limiting Amino Acids

Limiting Amino Acids

When we talk about limiting amino acids, these are the essential amino acids most likely to be restricting the use of the total amount of amino acids present. In most species, lysine is the first limiting amino acid, with methionine and threonine close behind. We commonly talk about amino acids as the building blocks of protein. If you are once you run out of an essential amino acid, you cannot build any more animal protein and the rest of the amino acids are used inefficiently for energy.

If you have a horse on a diet that is calculated to have adequate “crude protein”, but essential amino acids are not present, the horse simply cannot use the protein to build and maintain muscle, hair, hoof and skin and you will see changes in the appearance of the horse, such as loss of muscle mass, rough hair, scaly hoof surface.

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First Aid Horse Essentials

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit Photo Credit: Dover Saddlery (www.DoverSaddlery.com)

Being prepared to immediately give your horse first aid in the event of an illness or injury might make a big difference in the outcome of the situation. It’s wise to be prepared in case something happens, and an equine first-aid kit helps to ensure that you can care for your horse while waiting for an equine veterinarian to arrive. Start creating a basic first-aid kit with these helpful items.

Equine First-Aid Kit Basics

  • Flashlight. During the early morning hours, as sunset approaches or even in dark, tree-covered areas, a flashlight can be useful when assessing the problem.
  • Thermometer. Having a thermometer on hand lets you determine if your horse has a normal temperature. Typically this is between 99 and 101.5 Fahrenheit, but taking your horse’s temperature regularly when he is healthy will help determine what is normal for your particular horse.
  • Stethoscope. A horse’s heartbeat can be heard loudest behind its left elbow. A stethoscope also comes in handy for listening to the gut.
  • Antibiotic ointment. Superficial wounds and scrapes can be treated with antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection.
  • Diluted iodine. Any cuts, scrapes or puncture wounds can be flushed out with diluted iodine and covered to keep them from drying until the vet comes to treat them.
  • Electrolytes. Help protect your horse from dehydration and lethargy by carrying a powder or paste form of electrolytes in your first-aid kit.
  • Scissors or knife. It’s important to have something for cutting bandaging material, or for freeing a horse caught in a rope or other entanglement. Always exercise caution when using scissors around your horse.
  • Bandaging materials. A variety of bandaging materials are good to have on hand. Include some of the following in your first aid kit: nonstick gauze and cotton padding, duct tape and disposable diapers, sterile gauze and elastoplast, white adhesive medical tape, plastic wrap and cotton leg wraps.
  • Fly repellant. Keep pesty flies away from an open wound that can’t be covered with a bandage by applying fly repellant around the wound, but not directly on it.
  • Cooling packs. Ice packs that become cold when you bend or twist them could be useful when cold therapy is recommended by the equine veterinarian.

When First Aid is Needed

Before you consider administering any type of first aid to your horse, there are several things to consider. Start by calming yourself; your horse might already be scared and excited, and being in a panic yourself will only exacerbate the situation. Collect your thoughts and proceed by caring for your horse in a calm, slow manner. At that time, you should assess your horse’s attitude and behavior. If you’re not 100 percent sure that it’s OK to approach him safely and check the injury or problem, then wait until professional help arrives. Should you be able to safely approach your horse, it can be helpful to talk to him quietly and gently rub his neck for reassurance. Move the horse to a quiet location, if possible.

Once you have your horse secure, call your veterinarian so they can assess the injury or illness. Having a first-aid kit on hand allows you to administer initial care to your horse if needed while waiting for the vet. In addition to having a first-aid kit in the barn, it’s also helpful to have a travel kit that you can bring with you each time you take your horse off your property. While the list above can serve as a base to help you get started  as you put together an effective kit, always make sure that you consult your veterinarian on what other items will complete your first-aid kit so you are never left stranded.

Ashly Snell works at Dover Saddlery and has been an avid equestrian for 20 years. She currently enjoys eventing with and caring for her two Dutch Warmbloods.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

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Does My Senior Horse Need Calories or Protein?

hand feeding red sizeThere are some common questions come up when we talk about what happens to horses as they age and why their bodies change shape:

  • Does my good old horse need more calories (energy) or more protein?
  • He is out on good pasture and is holding his weight, but his hair coat looks dull and he has lost muscle mass.
  • She looks a little thin, should I add some fat/oil to her diet?

These are all apparently simple questions, but actually we need to look at the nutrient supply and purpose a little closer.

Calories from fat/oil, digestible fiber (structural carbohydrates and starch & sugar (non-structural carbohydrates) are the key energy sources for horses. If a horse is thin, that tells us that the horse needs more Calories to maintain fat cover measured by Body Condition Score system. Those Calories can be added from extra fat/oil, extra digestible fiber or additional starch and sugar. Vegetable oil contains 2.25 x the Calories per pound of carbohydrates and is a safe way to add Calories. Switching to a highly digestible fiber source (better quality forage, added beet pulp etc.) can also add Calories of digestible energy (DE). It takes 2-3+ pounds of added feed to add 1 pound of gain, depending on the feed.

Adding Calories alone will not bring back the muscle mass. This will require added protein (really added essential amino acids, particularly lysine, methionine and threonine, the first 3 limiting essential amino acids). If a horse is getting adequate crude protein, but the protein is of limited quality and is low in one or more essential amino acids, the horse will not be able to utilize it fully to maintain or restore muscle mass. This is why it is essential to know the quality of the protein in feeds, particularly these first 3 limiting amino acids.

A common situation is an old horse retired to a grass pasture. It may be difficult for the horse to consume enough to maintain body condition, thus the horse loses weight. The grass pasture may also be low in crude protein and certainly low in essential amino acids, so the horse also loses muscle mass. Tough combination for an old friend!

The good news is that this can be reversed with the use of a well-designed senior horse feed providing both Calories and essential amino acids!

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Posted in Horse Nutrition, Senior Horses
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Summer Barn Room Makeover

Horseshoe on BarnSummertime is an excellent time to give the inside of your barn a fresher, more organized look. If you’re short on space or your barn interior is looking old and tired, these ideas can help you revamp your barn room for summer. To get started and make the most of your efforts, determine the needs and wishes that are most important to fulfill. Ask yourself questions such as: Does my barn need to be organized? Does it need a functional makeover or an eye-appealing makeover? Once you’ve decided the driving force behind your barn revamp, you’ll be able to easily guide yourself through the renovation or redecoration process.

Ideas to Organize and Rearrange Your Barn Room

  • Make the Most of Wall Space. Use mounted shelves, hooks and other creative fixtures to store your horse tack and other items in a tidy manner. Add to the aesthetic appeal by thinking outside the box and using alternative items, such as bent horseshoes for wall hooks.
  • Floor-Based Organization. Not everything can be hung up. Floor bins and lockers are ideal for blankets and items that you use seasonally. Label each bin with the season so you can tuck away the items you won’t need for a while and position the current season’s bin in an easy-to-access location.
  • Saddles and Their Accessories. Saddles and saddle pads must be carefully stored to prevent damage to the leather or fiber. Prolong the life of these investments in your riding experience by using a saddle form and a storage rack. Your horse saddle will be easier to access and will add a beauty of its own to your barn.
  • Don’t Overlook Health and Safety in the Process. As you clean, organize and repurpose barn space, do so with health and safety in mind. One of the most important components of a high-functioning barn environment is proper air ventilation and circulation. Ensure that open windows, during nice weather, allow fresh air to enter the barn. Circulate it with fans, and get rid of stale air with an exhaust system. In addition to keeping the air inside fresh, proper ventilation helps get rid of warm air and moisture, while keeping the barn cool and dry.

Barn Repurposing Ideas

  • Create a Go-To Space for Relaxation. Who says you can’t have a comfortable sofa or armchair in the barn? Turn unused space into a haven for relaxation. A nice place to sit, some natural light and a few other provisions that mean “comfort” to you will provide you with a place near your horses where you can rest and relax after a ride or any other time.
  • A Place for Productivity. Office space in your barn will allow you to be productive while remaining close to your horses. Use this space for horse-related work or your telecommuting career. If you need quiet while you work, choose a space farther away from the location where people and animals will be coming and going throughout your workday.

Give Your Barn a Fresh New Look

Use these ideas to get more out of your barn and put unused and inefficient space to work for you. Start out with organization so you have a clearer picture of the space you have available to work with. Once the mess and clutter has been taken care of, you’ll be free to make changes to the appearance of your barn or revamp unused space.

Give the interior or exterior a fresh coat of paint, and don’t be afraid to use colors that aren’t traditional. Colors that appeal to you are going to make the barn feel more inviting to you. This is especially important if your barn is serving multiple purposes. Use vibrant colors to create a fun atmosphere or subdued and neutral colors for a location where you’ll come to relax.

The changes you make to organize, revamp and refresh your barn this summer can carry over to other seasons, increasing the function and enjoyment of your barn. As a horse-lover who spends a great deal of time there, it’s vital to have a space you look forward to coming to. These ideas can help you get started on the barn space you’ve been dreaming of.

Ashly Snell works at Dover Saddlery and has been an avid equestrian for 20 years. She currently enjoys eventing with and caring for her two Dutch Warmbloods.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Posted in Living the Horse Life
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Feeding Sunflower Seeds to Horses

Sunflower Seeds_Snack and Black Oil_BRSunflower seeds come in 2 basic classifications with some specialized varieties in each. Black oil sunflower seeds are primarily produced for sunflower oil production, and striped sunflower seeds are primarily produced for confectionary/human consumption.

  • Black oil sunflower seeds will be about 17% protein, 44% fat and 24% neutral detergent fiber (NDF).
  • Striped sunflower seeds will be about 16% protein, 24% fat and 40% NDF.

The hull of the sunflower is fairly tough and is not very digestible and the horse may not break all of the hulls when eating the seeds, so some may pass thru undigested. (The birds in your pasture will appreciate this!).

The black oil sunflower seeds are most readily available for purchase in bagged form as they are also popular for feeding birds and are the most widely used by horse owners. The oil content of black oil sunflower seeds is about 29% Omega 6 fatty acids and about .09% Omega 3 fatty acids. The oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is why it is popular for human use.

The key element to consider in deciding if there is a good reason to use black oil sunflower seeds is to consider what you are actually adding to the diet and at what cost.

  • Current bagged retail price may be about $16.00-$20.00 per 20 pound bag.
  • This translates to $1600-$2000 per ton, which is fairly spendy for a horse feed!

If you feed a pound of black oil sunflower seeds, you are adding about 7 ounces of oil (less than a cup) and 2.72 ounces of protein with minimal digestible NDF or other nutrients. If you buy bulk soy oil, you should be able to add more oil at lower cost by adding straight oil and you will have a better Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio.

Black oil sunflower seed use for horses needs to be assessed basis what the ingredient actually adds to the diet and what the cost is compared to other ingredients or feeds.

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

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