The way you feed your horse depends on its nutritional needs – and all horses are unique, so should be fed as such. There may come a time, whether that’s due to a change in condition, ageing, or workload when you may need to change your horse’s diet to meet their circumstances. There are a few factors you’re going to need to consider when changing horse feeds so your horse can maintain optimal digestive health, which we will take a closer look at below.
Identifying Your Horse’s NutritionalNeeds
Your horse’s diet plays an important role in their well-being and provides them with the nutrients they need to perform and work to the best of their ability. Every horse is different, and when determining a horse’s individual feeding requirements, there are a few main factors to consider, such as age, work, conditions, and intolerances. Providing the correct diet for your horse should mean you have a happy, healthy horse, and allows you to keep them at a healthy weight. When creating a diet for your horse, here are a few factors to weigh up:
- Feeds for conditions and intolerances: Does your horse have a history of specific diseases or issues such as laminitis. Generally speaking, feeds that are low in starch and sugar are safer options less likely to cause digestive upsets.
- Energy levels -keeping horses in optimal condition is one of the biggest challenges for horse owners. Seasonal fluctuations in the energy contribution grass makes means supplementary feed needs to be adjusted throughout the year to maintain your horses condition. . Horses that need to gain weight require feeds that are higher in energy. Horses that are overweight need a low calorie ration. Needs for veteran horses: Ageing horses have additional nutritional needs, and choosing feed that’s made specifically with them in mind is often more convenient than having to add supplements separately
Introducing a New Feed
One of the established rules of feeding horses is to make dietary changes gradually. Introducing a new feed and changing the contents of your horse’s diet suddenly can have a detrimental impact on your horse’s health. Here are a few tips to help you transition your horse’s feed in a safe way and avoid digestive upset.
- Introduce small amounts: The key to changing your horse’s feed to a more suitable diet is to do this gradually. Mix a small amount of new feed with your horse’s original feed –take around 7 to 10 days to make the change.
- Monitor and observe: It’s essential that you do this throughout the process checking your horse isn’t showing signs of colic. Also checking your horse’s bowel movements are normal is a good indicator that everything is well.
- Water intake: Make sure your horse has enough water to remain hydrated throughout the day – changes in feed can cause dehydration.
- Maintain routine: Make sure you try and maintain a routine when feeding your horse. Horses are creatures of habit and thrive on day-to-day routines. Even when changing your horse’s diet, ensuring you feed them at the same time each day could help reduce the chance of colic and gastric ulcers.
Signs to Look Out For
It’s essential when changing your horse’s feed that you keep a close eye on any changes that may take place during this time. Monitoring your horse closely will allow you to identify digestive issues that may cause discomfort or further health problems. Some signs to look out for when transitioning your horse from one feed to another include looking for a loss of appetite or decreased intake of food, loose stools or diarrhoea, and changes in weight and behaviour. Knowing what to look out for means you can make changes to the transition period as necessary to keep your horse comfortable and happy.