Feeding Your Horse To Avoid
All horses, no matter what age,
need a properly balanced diet that is built
around a forage base. Their bodies are built to use forage best.
"Feeding horses is simple and needs to
be kept that way. Don’t ever
supplement unless it is with the advice of a nutritionist or
cautions Dr. R.D. Scoggins, equine extension veterinarian at the
of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana.
Horses require grain less often than owners
think. Hard-working horses,
such as race horses or eventing horses that train every day, may need
to maintain their body condition. Nursing mares may also need grain to
them maintain body condition.
"Other horses only need what grain it
takes to catch them," quips Dr. Scoggins.
Hard-working horses have a higher energy
demand than others, especially if
they start in poor body condition. These animals may benefit from the
energy that corn adds to the diet.
Proper mineral balance is also very
important in the horse’s diet at all stages
of life. To give the foal a good start before it hits the ground, the mare
the right amount and correct balance of minerals, especially copper,
and selenium (if you live in a selenium-deficient area). Once the foal
growing, properly balanced minerals in its diet will help prevent joint
Horses are nibblers. They have a relatively
small stomach and need frequent
smaller meals to avoid problems like colic. If grain is necessary, provide
maximum of one-half pound of grain per 100 pounds of body weight at a
Good quality hay should be available free choice.
When temperatures dip and horses are
outside, give the animals more forage.
"The heat of fermentation will keep the horse warm. corn gives
extra heat, to a horse," he notes.
Over-conditioning (fat) is hard on your
horse. The extra body weight can lead
to lameness and make subtle lameness worse. Extra fat may increase
incidence of fatty lipomas in the intestines. It also adds to the general
and tear on the horse’s body.
Dr. Scoggins warns, "Never feed
‘screenings’ or ‘fines’ to a horse," Corn
screenings have a higher mold content than whole corn and are often
to moldy corn poisoning in horses.
Other tips Dr. Scoggins gives for horse
1) Don’t store greater than a two-week supply of processed grain.
2) Clean out the inside of storage bins, especially in summer when
3) Keep the food supply covered to avoid contamination with rodent
Diseases such as leptospirosis, salmonella, and equine protozoal
can be transmitted through feed contamination.
4) Wrap round bales and store inside if possible. This will decrease
amount of mold and dust and help control COPD (congestive
5) Feed only an amount of hay the horses can clean up. this will
the amount of mice and vermin in the hay, therefore decreasing the
6) Maintain an adequate water supply for the horses, keeping it clean,
and of a drinkable temperature in the winter. This will also help prevent
impaction of the intestine.
7) Don’t grain a horse within one hour of hard work (either before or
8) When trailering, give the horse good quality grass hay and no grain.
sure it has plenty of water on the trip.
If you have questions about feeding your
horse to avoid problems, call your
This information was supplied by Linda
March, the Information Specialist at the
University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine.