Horses evolved as grazers, eating at ground level and consuming small quantities of low nutrient forage (low in protein, fats and carbohydrates) throughout the day and night.
This consistent chewing not only naturally maintains their teeth but also increases saliva production. Equine saliva is high in bicarbonate, which is a buffering agent that can help in warding off ulcers that are so prevalent in our domestic equines.
Also, unlike humans who secrete digestive juices on demand, horses continuously secrete stomach acids, even on an empty stomach which is why feeding large quantities of a rich, high sugar and/or starch diet only a few times a day is very disruptive and detrimental to their natural digestive process.
Domestication has changed a horse’s lifestyle but the basic nutritional needs of a horse have not changed.
My recommendations below are based upon interpretations and
recommendations made by the National Research Councils Nutrient
Requirements of Horses.
Provide a good quality grass hay (Bermuda, Orchard, Timothy) as they tend to be lower in calories (sugar) so more can be fed. Feed smaller meals more frequently. Invest in a few hay nets and place them around your horses living area. This will reduce hay waste, reduce boredom, will slow food intake and in applicable environments, encourage movement.
Avoid cereal hays (Barley, Oat, and Rye) and grain due to their high sugar and/or starch content.
Generally, Alfalfa only diets provide more energy, protein and calcium than the average mature performance or pleasure horse requires (unlike a race horse or endurance horse). Also, diets high in Alfalfa put horses at risk of developing enteroliths.
Simply avoid over supplementing!!! Keep it simple. There are many, many popular supplements out there that provide an impressive list of ingredients but the truth be known, they don’t provide enough of any one of those ingredients to meet your horses needs. It’s a very expensive way to make you feel good and do nothing for your horse.
CA Trace Plus (www.bare-hooftrim.com)
CA Trace Plus was designed by a natural hoof care professional in Northern CA to balance the vitamins and minerals against the typical profile of west coast grass hays. Without testing your hay and balancing to it, this regional vitamin/mineral mix provides a “best guess” supplement for your horse.
Omega Horseshine (www.omegafields.com)
Omega Horseshine is a stabilized ground flaxseed supplement that provides Omega-3 fatty acids to the typical Southern CA equine diet that is deficient in them due to the lack of time spent grazing live plants and grasses. Flax is also recommended because of it’s Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio which is approximately 3:1. The reverse ratio can have an inflammatory effect (such as found in Rice Bran and Black Oil Sunflower Seeds).
Avoid sweet/processed feeds due to the high sugar content (such as O&M, senior feeds and other pelleted type feeds containing excessive amounts of molasses).
Salt supplementation helps to ensure that horses drink enough water in both hot and cold weather. A horse’s minimum daily requirement is 2 oz. per day (approx. 3 tablespoons) which can be supplied loose or in block form. If a horse is licking 2 oz. per day from a 5 lb block, the block should be gone in 7 weeks. To ensure your horse is getting the minimum daily requirement, mixing loose salt in with your horses daily supplements is recommended. Also, plain white table salt is recommended as it is salt in its purest form.
Red or brown mineral salt blocks were initially designed for cattle not horses. Their mineral profile is typically not appropriate or complimentary to a horses diet.
Designer salts such as the Himalayan Salt Lick carried by yaks down a treacherous mountain to your local feed store sound great but what makes them pink? It can be a combination of dirt (yes) and minerals that (per the above) are not identified and might very well not be appropriate for your horse (and your pocketbook).
GOOD SUPPLEMENT CARRIERS:
Unmolassed Beet Pulp
If you can’t find unmolassed beet pulp, you can soak and rinse shreds or pellets to ensure that any molasses used for dust control, flavor or as a binding agent is removed.
Unmolassed Grass Hay Pellets
Mountain Sunrise Bermuda or Timothy Hay Pellets. This brand does not contain molasses as other brands may.
HEALTHY HORSE TREATS:
Skodes Horse Treats
Emerald Valley Beet Treats