Horse owners often wonder if they are providing enough nutrition to their horses. In today’s world of hundreds of supplement selections available at the local tack shop or on-line, owners can start to feel as if they must be doing something wrong if they aren’t supplementing the normal hay and grain rations provided. Here’s a few key tips to make sure you are doing everything right for your favorite equine friend – keeping in mind, of course, that quality hay/pasture fed at approximately 1.5% of body weight is the key base to all horse rations.
On the flip side, and much more common, is feeding below the recommended feeding allowance because the horse is an “easy keeper”. In that case, the concentrate is not providing enough of the nutrients for the horse, and you should look for a lower calorie or lower feeding rate product to ensure your horse is receiving the nutrition it needs.
If you are feeding a quality commercially prepared feed, and you are feeding within the recommended amount for your size horse, then vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed, and often recommended against.
There are a host of nutritional inter-dependencies, such as copper and zinc or calcium and phosphorus working together, that commercial feed companies account for when designing products, and adding a vitamin and/or mineral supplement can interfere with those ratios and potentially cause problems.
Gut health, as well as hoof & hair coat, supplements abound. Before you buy one, check your feed tag to see what it might already be providing. Many premium horse feeds today already contain yeast and/or probiotics for gut health, and several contain biotin & methionine – the two key components of a lot of hoof supplements. Depending on your feeding program, you just might save time & money by not needing to supplement those.
Joint and other supplements – while good joint health starts with proper nutrition from a young age (think “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”) many horses require additional support. However, there are limitations on what feed companies can put in to feeds, so these are often necessary as “extras” in the diet.
Have you ever noticed how passionate a horse owner is about horse feed? Granted, there are some folks I’ve met who are indifferent, but more often than not, when I ask a horseperson about their choice of horse feed, eyes brighten up and energy increases as they explain why the feed works for their horse.
As a 20+ year horse owner, I can certainly understand! The connection we have with our horses is unlike any other; the enrichment of having a horse in your life is difficult to put into words; achieving dreams and beyond, teaching us the entire way.
Recently, I read an article about a Miniature Horse stallion named Buckeroo, standing at Little King Farm in Madison, Indiana. This horse not only changed the business of Little King Farm, he changed the lives of Ed and Marianne and their family by opening up the world of possibilities (literally!) all the while teaching valuable life lessons: “to respect, be loyal, take responsibility, see things through with dedication and (he) taught them with love.” This stallion created an international business that has fulfilled Marianne and Ed’s dreams and then some.
The story of Buckeroo resonated with me as one example of how horses can make our dreams come true. Henry David Thoreau once said ‘Dreams are the touchstones of our character.’ How passionate are you about fueling your dreams?
Welcome to The Feed Room – a new site brought to you by the Nutrena team, dedicated to providing resources and insights for happy, healthy horses!
We all share a common interest – a love for our horses! We’ll frequently cover a wide range of topics including horse feed, feeding tips, digestive health, training tips and tricks, and fun industry events. We have reached far and wide to bring the best experts to you and will frequently include posts from key industry personalities, leading universities, and champion riders.
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While knowing your horse’s weight is critical to making sure your horse is receiving the care it needs, tracking your horse’s Body Condition Score over time is an ideal (and easier) way to make sure your horse is doing as well as you want him to.
You can easily determine your horse’s BCS by looking at the amount of fat deposited in six key areas of your horse’s body:
Along the neck
Along the withers
Crease along the back
Over the ribs
Behind the shoulder
Over the tailhead
As a general rule of thumb, growing and performance horses, as well as general-use horses, should be kept at a BCS of 4-7, with a 5 being “ideal”. Broodmares should generally be kept at a 5.5-7.5.
Learning how to assign a Body Condition Score may take a little practice, and what you call a 4.5 might be a 5 to your neighbor, but what is most important to your own herd is that you assign scores to each horse, then track them over time to ensure that everyone is receiving all the care they need.
For your reference, here is a quick “how-to” video:
Knowing the weight of your horse is important for several things, such as feeding properly, administering medications or dewormer paste, and generally tracking the health of your horse.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have access to scales big enough for a horse, so most horse owners end up using a traditional weight tape to measure their horse. While better than nothing, using a weight tape to measure your horse can be somewhat inaccurate at best. So, what’s a horse owner to do?
Try this: Using a seamstress tape, measure the length of your horse, and then around their girth, all in inches. Put those measurements in to this formula:
(Heartgirth x heartgirth x body length) / 330 = Weight of horse
If you have a mature horse, use that “330” number. If you have a yearling, use “301”, and if you have a weanling, use “280.” And last but certainly not least – have a pony? Use “299” to get the right weight.
To see a demonstration, watch our YouTube video on how to measure your horse without a scale:
The plight of the unwanted horse is something on every horse owner’s mind these days. No matter the opinion on how the horse industry got here, one thing is for sure – these horses need proper care.
If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to take in a neglected horse, but haven’t ever had to rehabilitate one before, it can be a challenging opportunity. Care needs to be taken to bring a starving horse back to health in a slow and steady manner.
The main dietary goal in managing an HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis) horse is keeping total dietary potassium under 1.0%. It is key to look at the total dietary potassium instead of just the hay or just the grain source.
To figure out total dietary potassium (or any other nutrient level), use the following formula:
((Pounds of hay x percent potassium in hay) + (Pounds of grain x percent potassium in grain)) / Total pounds of feed.
For example, if you are feeding 15 lbs a day of a grass hay that measures 1.0% potassium, along with 6 lbs a day of a grain mix that measures 0.8% potassium, then your calculations would be as follows:
((15 x 0.01) + (6 x 0.008)) / 21 = 0.942% total dietary potassium.
Find out the potassium of your hay source, and of your grain, and then you can figure out your horse’s total dietary potassium level.