April is Equine Health Month
This year for Equine Health Month we are focusing on nutrition! Equine nutrition is often overlooked, but it is pivotal in your horses overall well-being. Horses should receive 1-2% of their body weight (on a dry matter basis) in forage a day. This is approximately 20-25 lbs for a 1000 lb horse. The forage may be grass or grass/alfalfa mix, depending on your horse’s work load. However, hay is not a complete diet. Water is a key component to good nutrition and the average horse consumes about 10 gallons of water a day. All other nutrients are broken down into fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. The average horse requires 8% of the diet to be protein. The protein requirement increases if they are lactating or a senior. Horses need vitamins and minerals to have a balanced diet. These can be added by using either a concentrate or supplement. Concentrates, or grain, usually have more calories than most equids need. Loose mineral supplements are made to fulfill a horses requirements of vitamins and minerals in a small amount. We often recommend Platinum Performance supplements.
Horses are hind gut fermenters. This means a lot of their digestion occurs in their cecum. They don’t have a rumen like a cow, so they process forages differently. They have small stomachs’ that don’t hold much feed. This means their gastrointestinal system functions best when they eat small continual amounts (graze). Having forage (grass or hay) in front of our horses at all times is ideal to mimic their natural grazing behavior. Disruptions in feeding can cause problems with their sensitive digestive systems.
In order to know what your horse’s nutritional needs are, we need to know their body condition. Body Condition Scoring is a method to assess a horse’s weight. It is based on a scale from 1 to 10: 1 is so skinny you can see ribs and the pelvis bone, 5 is ideal condition (where you can feel ribs but not see them), and 10 is obese (where they have a large divot down their topline).
Horses that have higher demands (pregnant, heavy workload, seniors) should receive some concentrates in addition to their forage. There are many brands and forms of concentrates, some are made to supplement hay and some are made to be a complete feed source. We can help you decipher the options to find what is best for your horse.
Nutrition is key to having a healthy equine companion. We often think having them on grass hay is fine and they are good to go. Unfortunately, what we don’t realize, is that their diet may be lacking certain nutrients, energy or protein. If your horse is underweight, we recommend a fecal float, a dental float and assessing their nutrition. They may need more alfalfa, better quality hay or concentrates. There are many options and brands, we would love to discuss your individual horse and its needs with you!
Our April promotion is 10% off dental floats. We have some package deals to help owners save money in order to do more for their equine companions. There is an Annual Maintenance (exam, vaccines and fecal float), Annual Maintenance + Float, and Annual Senior (add bloodwork and nutrition discussion). We would like to invite you to our annual client dinner on May 28th at 6:30 pm, we will be having our Purina representative here to discuss Feeding the Senior Horse (location TBD).