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The Well Fed Horse

       There are many factors affecting the amount and type of feed our horses should receive: Size of the horse, age, breed, occupation, the season, and shelter directly affects the amount of feed our horses need. Proper dental care and parasites affect digestion of food our horses eat.

Pasture/Hay : Well-tended pasture is important. If pastures are not in good condition, supplementing with good quality hay is a must. Horses are genetically designed to survive on large amounts of roughage and adequate provision of this is the first essential of basic nutrition.  Grass hay is the best.  Straight alfalfa is not recommended as it can cause many health problems with horses.

Energy Feeds:           
Energy feeds are high in carbohydrates (sugars & starches), which are turned into fuel in the body.  These grains can be fed in the ratios:  Oats (45%), Barley (30%), Corn (25%), mixed by Weight.  I have also fed equal parts Oats and Barley, and ¼ part Corn with great success.  Feeding organic grains will improve the health of your horse even more!  

  • Oats:  An energy feed excellent for building healthy muscles and bones as it is high in silica.  Oats are an excellent energy ration for the young growing horse and for all breeding stock. Oats can make a horse high-strung if fed in excess.
  • Barley:  More fattening than oats because of the higher energy value and does not make horses “hot” if fed properly. Barley is for horses that need an increase in body condition and maintenance.
  • Corn:  The highest in energy of these grains and is very useful to feed horses in demanding sports where high energy levels are required. Can be fed cracked for better digestibility.  Make sure it is non-GMO (Genetically Modified) corn or heavily chemically processed.

Protein Feeds

  • Whole Extruded Soybeans – good source of protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds – contains protein and essential fatty acids. High in Vitamin E, and Omega 6 essential fatty acids.

Protein is most important to the growing and breeding horse.  Excess protein and grain fed to performance horses can cause problems such as heat in feet, thick urine with excess ammonia, tying up, behavioral and soundness problems. Adult horses only require between 7% and 10% protein in their diet.

Oil (fat) is important to keep coats healthy and shiny.  They assist in the transport of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and minerals, and are essential for production of some hormones. Fats give the horse a more gradual and consistent source of energy. Excess oil should not be fed to horses because they cannot easily metabolize it. Horses do not have a gallbladder.
Feeding oils that are high in the beneficial Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are the best. Examples of these are:  cod liver oil (which acts as an arthritis preventative), extra virgin olive oil, wheat germ oil, and flax oil. Make sure oils have not gone rancid before use.
Black Oil Sunflower Seed are also a great source of fat for the horse.

Kelley teaches equine nutrition and herb classes in the community.  Please contact her for class information or to schedule an Equine Health & Wellness evaluation.  She can be contacted at (802) 893-0521.


Pella the dog communing with KelleyCoreopsis plant in bloomHenry the catLemon vetch or sheep's sorrel?Spike the pony