How do you determine what to feed your horse? A running theme throughout articles regarding a horses diet is BALANCE. But how do we get there?
Creating A Balanced Diet For Your Horse
When beginning to address a balanced diet for your horse, first be sure that your horse has a daily supply of nutrients in correct amount. But in order to understand these major nutrients, it is important to identify and define them.
Major Nutrients For Horses
- digestible energy (mcal/day)
- crude protein (kg/day)
- calcium (g/day)
- phosphorus (g/day)
- sodium/potassium (g/day)
- trace minerals such as copper, zinc and iron (mg/day)
- Vitamins A, D and E (IU/day)
- Thiamine (mg/day).
Now that you have a general understanding of how these units of nutrients are measured- you can be on your way to creating the best balanced diet for your horse
Age, Size, And Workload Matter In A Horse’s Diet
Next, asses your horse. Do you have a foal that is growing? Do you have a lactating mare? Or do you have a mature horse in moderate work? It is crucial to understand what category your horse falls under- because a balanced nutritional diet for one horse could be different for another.
For example: based on Rick Parker’s Equine Science (Third Edition) it is stated that a 1,100lb mature horse in moderate work should be receiving 24.6 Megacalories daily, while a 1,100lb mature horse at rest (maintenance) should be fed 16.4 Megacalories daily. It is important to asses your horses workload appropriately to find a balanced diet for your horse.
What Is My Horse’s Workload?
You may be wondering- what is my horse’s workload. This can be a daunting question for a horse owner, especially if you have goals that continue to change.
Identify your horse’s workload by the chart below!
Recommended Nutritional Requirements For Horses
Next, it’s time to find trustworthy information on what is recommended for your horse nutritionally. Of course, we always recommend speaking to your vet first before making any changes to your horses diet. Many horses’ have underlying conditions that aren’t taken into account on general nutritional sources. Once this is checked, you are free to move forward in creating a balanced diet for your horse.
Oklahoma State University created a reliable source for horse owners to get recommended nutritional information. Visit OSU’s Fact Sheet for more information on what your horse could require!
What Are You Currently Feeding Your Horse?
Every horse owner has a different feeding routine. Many of our customers have shared many of their horse’s diets with us when they are looking to make changes to their Omega and Vitamin E supplements. It is important to compare what you are currently feeding with the information you have discovered through researching your horse’s suggested nutritional needs. However, this can lead to some confusion for first time “menu” makers, and there are many different ways to organize this information.
For one thing, make a chart. Constructing a chart of what you are currently feeding and then filling in a second column of the recommended diet can help you see where you are missing items or needing to add nutrients.
This can be an overwhelming task, so we made an example chart to help!
As you can see from the example above, the current grain for this horse with a light workload is not covering all the bases in his diet. Meaning, just feeding his grain is not giving him enough of the crucial nutrient requirements needed for his body.
Supplements Can Create A Balanced Diet For Your Horse
Adding supplementation to this horses diet can help him tremendously. For example, adding ExcelEQ to this diet would help add Digestible Energy and Vitamin E to his diet. Another example would be adding a mineral block to his stall or pasture so he can free range on the missing minerals in his diet.
Again, these are examples. We always recommend speaking to your vet before making any changes to your horses diet, as many have underlying conditions that aren’t taken into account on general nutritional sources.
- Parker, Rick. Equine Science (Third Edition). Clifton Park, Delmar Cengage Learning, 2008
- Oklahoma State University: Nutrient Needs of Horses
- American Association of Equine Practitioners