RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: FEEDING 1
There is a lot of partial education on feeding available these days and many of this education is published or posted by actual feeding companies who are trying to promote their own products, so as equine professionals (or effective enthusiasts) we need to learn from an unbiased source and to study the facts and ignore the trends or the hype around the financially lucrative equine feeding & supplement industry so we truly provide a safe & effective diet to our equine partners. What you will learn with us will place you in the forefront of knowledge regarding feeding and you will not find this knowledge on google ...(so get ready for blank stares ;)
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS FIRST
Horses have been domesticated into our lifestyles however this does not change their natural biology or makeup, which is very unique and intricate.
There are some foundational facts which need to be taken into account when feeding:
Horses are naturally nomadic, moving in herds constantly into new clean grazing and foraging areas. They naturally gain all they need by eating clean bark, shrubs, trees, roots, vegetables, flowers, pollen, seeds, grass, grains, along with a bit of dirt full of minerals. When these areas have been grazed down they move on.
Horses avoid disease, sickness and infections by only eating fresh and clean foods. They will not eat where they urinate or where their manure is. Equine mothers teach their foals what is poisonous or dangerous, what to eat and not eat. Unfortunately in our predominantly money driven, lack of quality horse industries, foals are often taken from their mothers before they can be fully taught these things and so these days horses will eat anything and become sick often.
Any horse who has been weaned and taken from it's mother before it is a two year old will not know what to eat and what not to eat fully. Therefore you must provide an environment that is free of plants poisonous specifically to horses or dangerous things they can eat.
One of the reasons horses become sick so often in the domestic environment is being locked in one small area, or even in larger paddocks, which they manure and urinate in and which they are unable to move on from when it becomes trodden down, out grazed and acidic / 'horse sour'.
Horses should always be rotated onto fresh, clean paddocks regularly, preferably weekly. If you only have one paddock, it is a good idea to fence it into two paddocks and rotate weekly. While one side is empty it can be weeded, cleaned of manure thoroughly, irrigated and even very lightly limed. With horses the 'grass IS actually greener on the other side' of the fence...this is because horses make paddocks acidic with their urination.
This makes the grass in the surrounding paddock acidic and bitter tasting. Horse owners need to apply lime to their horse paddocks at least annually heavily, while the paddocks are spelled, or more regularly lightly while the paddocks are spelled. This returns the alkalinity and sweetness to the grass. Liming paddocks is standard necessary practice for horse owners.
Another popular practice is cross grazing cattle or sheep through after a horse has eaten down an area. Horses will not eat the area they urinate in and it is often an area of long grass they choose to urinate in because they are cleanliness conscious and do not like to allow urine to splash on legs, rebounding off the short grass / ground.
So when a paddock is eaten down by horses there will still be long patches where they urinate and where they tend to manure which they can't eat, there can be quite a few patches in one paddock, so don't be fooled into thinking your horses still has plenty of grass when they can't eat the longer grass patches you see and the rest is grazed down ;).
Cattle and sheep will eat these areas down while naturally 'fertilizing' the paddocks also if you allow them into the paddock after a horse has been removed. However cross grazing doesn't return the natural alkaline balance into the grass like lime does, therefore liming is preferred. A very slight, light dusting, barely visible, once a month is sufficient while horses are removed for that week, using proper Ag lime, rather than hydrated lime which contains not good Ph levels for horses.
Horses being naturally nomadic never required multi-vitamin and mineral supplementation because of the exhaustive and complete list covered by eating pollen from flowers, nutrient rich dirt and the rest of their diet.
Pollen alone is a complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement natural for horses to consume. However when horses are locked in pastures which are constantly grazed down and acidic / 'horse sour', flower intake and therefore pollen intake is minimal if existent at all.
Horses are grazers. It is not natural for a horses body to be without food long periods of time, therefore if you can't provide a grassy paddock with adequate amounts of grass, it is necessary to provide ad lib hay (Rhodes hay or plain meadow grass hay is good). A horse can develop stomach ulcers if left without food intake for more than four hours. Horses should never be left without ad lib forage of some kind at all times while in our care. Enough to see them through day and night until you re-stock it, horses only sleep for a few hours overnight. They will need sufficient food to tide them over until you re-stock it.
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