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Horse Feeding 101: What to Feed Them and How
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Horse Feeding 101: What to Feed Them and How

Horses need a lot of care. Their eating habits are a bit difficult to follow if you are not used to it. They are not like other animals. They often suffer from colic and need to be dolled. So, what are the main aspects you need to know in order to ensure that your four-legged friends get all the nutrients they need, along with the care they need so that they do not get ill?

First and foremost, horses are herbivores. That means that you cannot feed them any animal products or by-products. If you give horses some cake, make sure there are no eggs or dairy in it. Make sure it resembles bread as much as possible. A horse's main diet consists of hay, straw, and grass. If you like to feed your horse some commercial food, give them the hay before. This will make sure that the commercial food does not get pushed through their stomach without being digested.

Horses will naturally spend a lot of time grazing because that is what horses do in the wild. This means that when they are in their stable boxes, they will eat their litter. You need to be careful with this because it can clog up the intestines, give them colic, or make their stomachs become bloated. Tissue ruptures are also possible which could be fatal.

Now, unlike cows, horses only chew their food once. Therefore, you need to make sure their teeth are in perfect condition. If not, they could end up with diarrhea, colic, or an obstruction of the esophagus.

Furthermore, horses have very small stomachs. This means that they can only eat small meals. If they eat too much at once, they can end up clogging their intestines, end up with coli, or a bloated stomach, and tear their digestive system, which could be fatal. Feed them 3 to 5 small meals per day.

As you can see, their digestive systems – especially their intestines – are delicate. You have to be careful when feeding your horses to ensure there is no mold, dust, or any toxins in their food, as well as being careful when changing their diet. Colic can arise when they eat foods that are too rich for them, such as grains or alfalfa sprouts. This makes them have too much gas in the stomach and the large intestine and can lead to a great deal of pain. Bacteria can develop and when it dies, this can lead to the horse’s death.

Remember that horses cannot throw up. Therefore, if anything that shouldn’t be there ends up in the stomach, they cannot get rid of it. Digestion problems are therefore to be expected.

Make sure you give your horses plenty of water. They actually need anywhere from 20 to 60 liters of water per day to help them digest the large quantity of fibers they consume. Never give them ice water after working or a workout. Ice water can cause spasms and anything that is already in the stomach will stay stuck there. Gases cannot leave the stomach and that could lead to painful colic. Plus, try to give them the water before they eat, or else their food will pass through their intestines without being digested. Do not give them too much water immediately after working or exercising. Put a few pieces of straw in it so that they don’t drink it too quickly.

Finally, horses prefer to be fed at the same time every day. Make sure that they finished the previous meal before giving them more. Plus, do not make them do any exercise or work immediately after a meal. They need all their energy to digest their food. To make things easier, feed them a bit less on days where they are not working or exercising.


Photo credit: flickr.com

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  1. pftsusan
    Thank you for writing this. It's very educational. I knew that horses could eat bananas, but not the other human foods. I learned new things after reading this blog.

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