Our horses have evolved to eat a high fibre diet, and ensuring they can eat as nature intended is vital to their good health.
Here to help you top up your horse’s forage levels and remind you why it’s so important is nutritionist Clare Barfoot RNutr of Spillers.
Read on for her five top tips.
- Forage should form the largest part of your horse or pony’s diet – and should always be given thorough consideration. Even in native ponies you can’t rely on it to provide a balanced diet.
- Some horses, particularly native ponies, may not need high quality or high energy forages in order to supply good energy levels. However, low energy forage can be high in water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) and low in protein, and therefore may not be as appropriate a diet as you might think.
- If your horse or pony is prone to laminitis, get your forage analysed and choose a hay or haylage that has a WSC level of less than 10%. Soaking hay in tepid water overnight can reduce its WSC on average by 50%, but this is no guarantee that it will then be safe for a laminitic.
- If you’re feeding low protein forage as the total ration, some diets may not supply enough protein to meet maintenance requirements. And, as we’ve mentioned in the previous pages, over time protein deficiency could lead to problems such as loss of muscle mass, topline, weight loss and poor coat and hoof quality.
- The best way to balance the diet depends on your horse’s individual nutritional needs. Horses working hard or requiring extra condition will need a medium energy compound feed, such as a conditioning cube. Good doers who don’t require any extra energy will need a supply of vitamins and minerals alongside good quality protein, especially if their forage is low in protein. This can be done by feeding a balancer, which should provide good levels of vitamins, minerals and quality protein to balance the deficiencies found in forage, but without adding extra calories.