Horse owners should always make sure to include forage as the base of their horse’s diet. The design of horses’ digestive systems makes it difficult for them to tolerate large amounts of concentrate horse feed or extremely low levels of grass or hay. In fact, their systems are designed to allow small amount of feed to move through their systems consistently.
The mention of forage makes most horse owners think of hay and grass, but there are a number of other components that also fall into that category including:
- Beet pulp
- Alfalfa hay cubes
- Grass hay cubes
- Chopped bagged hay
While this is certainly not a complete list it provides some of the various products that fall into the forage category. Additionally when this article mentions forage, it is in reference to long-stem forage such as those listed above. It is this variety that keeps the horse’s gut healthy and moving. It is for this reason you will note the presence of alfalfa cubes but not alfalfa pellets since they are too small to have any effect on gut function and motility. Be kind to your horse.
A good many horses except maybe those engaged in moderate or heavy work are able to thrive quite well on pasture forage and a vitamin and mineral supplement. Do not misunderstand; there are some instances in which a diet consisting of predominantly forage is unable to meet the caloric demands of a horse. It is in this particular instance when you will need to supplement the diet with concentrated horse feed.
In today’s society many horses face problems with horse nutrition that include the following;
Horses face long periods where they are left without forage
The design of a horse’s digestive system demands he constantly have some type of forage in front of him all day long. While the ideal situation is for him to not go longer than four hours with some type of hay in front of him, quite often this does not happen.
Keep hay out for the horses.
Horses today fail to have enough forage in their diets
A horse should consume at least one percent of his weight in forage every day for proper gut health and mobility. For a 1000 pound horse that is ten pounds daily. Easy keepers should consume .5 percent while all others should be closer to two percent.
In order to resolve the problems that occur with a lack of forage, horse owners can do the following to remedy the situation:
Weigh the hay you give your horse
Even if you think you know how much you are feeding your horse, you may actually be over or underestimating. Don’t take a chance with horse nutrition.
Provide a sufficient amount of forage for your horse
Unfortunately there are sometimes situations where people are limited and only able to feed their horses twice a day or the barn where they are housed only provides a specific amount per day. As an owner you may have to work out a solution to accommodate the needs of your horse so he maintains good horse health.
Provide forage more often
This will help solve the problem of your horse not having forage in front of him long enough because with more feedings, it will take him longer to eat what you place in front of him.
If you are faced with having to feed forage more often you can switch to lower-quality grass hays instead of the high-quality alfalfa hay you usually provide. Remember, this means LOWER quality and not LOW quality—there is a big difference. There just happens to be fewer nutrients and calories than you find in high-quality forages. A great choice here is to use hay that is a couple of seasons old and has been properly stored as filler-hay. This type of forage works very well when feeding forage more often and doesn’t cost as much as a new product. I love horses!