RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: FEEDING 3
Now that we have established the ideal main or entire 'bulk' of our feeding regime needs to be forage, there are also some other elements to add to this, depending on your horse and the demands placed upon your horse. It is a little known fact that while humans cannot convert fibre to energy. Horses digestive systems ARE specifically designed to convert fibre to energy.
Feeding companies often wrongly analyse the energy humans 'don't' get from fibre and assume horses are the same when they are not. This needs to be taken into account when analyzing your horses energy requirements if it has a high physical demand.
It is however necessary to supplement sometimes with feed that increases weight faster or increases energy more than fibre / forage alone is able to.
This is the part that gets tricky. There are enormous choices available when it comes to choosing feed. Very generally, most stand alone one stop shop produced feeds are made up of the basic elements: Barley, Oats, Wheat, Wheat Bran, Corn / Maize. Common additives after this are black sunflower seeds, copra, soy bean meal, molasses, a multi vitamin / mineral supplement of some description with vegetable oil to create a shinier coat and thus make it appear their feed is making your horse healthy.
There are many variables to this and pellets tend to contain more wheat bran, with pellets produced for fattening horses containing a lot of Soy bean meal. Then there's alternative feeds like Maxisoy which is very fibrous and basically the outer shell or bran from the soy bean. This is extremely high in protein, beyond that which is tolerable or natural to horses.
Copra is also extremely high in protein and the type of protein which actually is completely indigestible to horses, causing major internal complications, I've seen many horses become very unhealthy over time from feeding copra, yet so many feed it (many people feed coat conditioners or oils to make their horses shiny and so don't see a horses health deteriorate which is normally reflected in the coat first).
You need to think for yourselves when it comes to feeding and not get sucked into trends or marketed products which are not natural or good for your horse.
The current feeding climate is not a good one, we need to be smarter. Horses are dying of colic so regularly horse owners seriously need to change their understanding of feeding before more horses are lost to ignorance.
You should be weighing up whether or not your horse needs grain / hard feed in the first place. Where you would need to is where the energy demands are too high for fibre alone, or the horse is older and tends to not keep weight on, some horses are harder to keep weight on than others etc. It is also handy when feeding hardfeed to get the supplements into your horse that you want to.
Because our horses are domesticated they will lack many of the nutrients they wouldn't if roaming free. Therefore whatever the horses demands or activities, it is recommended for general health and well-being to supplement with a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
A good natural one is Feramoh H, this uses natural sources. Feeding a multivitamin that is synthetically produced can be dangerous because the horse cannot eject excess synthetic supplements out of the body easily and it can cause complications, whereas natural supplement excesses are ejected easily and naturally.
There are many mineral blocks available, however you should be feeding salt separate from other minerals. The reason being horses can eat whole mineral blocks just because they wanted the salt in it. Or may need the minerals and not the salt and intake excess salt causing complications.
It is advised to provide pink rock salt blocks ad lib in horses paddocks. Under shelter or the rain will quickly erode them. Horses can then get the salt they need, when they need it. And then feed vitamins and minerals separately and measured, in a small feed. Always look out for selenium and iodine in feedstuffs, toxic to horses in excess.
If you don't want or need to feed grain you can mix up a bit of lucern chaff with your supplements, horses can be VERY picky when they smell something in their feed though so the best way to disguise the taste is lacing it with molasses, even if the horse hasn't had molasses before they soon warm to it and it is a good practice to add a bit of molasses to feed anyway, standard, because one day your horse may get sick and need medicine in it's feed and molasses covers the taste and keeps them eating. Some people also put a small amount only of molasses in the horses water if they travel away a lot to competitions as sometimes horses won't drink when the water changes and this keeps it tasting familiar ;)
As far as chaffs go, horses will generally go for lucern as a favourite, they don't really go for oat chaff or wheaten chaff and wheat really should be avoided altogether as it is actually toxic specifically to horses.
If you need to add grain to a feed for any reason you need to make sure it is as minimal as possible. For fattening I would definitely stick to barley, steamflaked laced with molasses is best for picky eaters, they love it and it is the all time leader in putting on weight vs ratio needing to be fed. Just make sure your forage / roughage intake is as high as possible also when hard feeding (feeding grain).
Many industries, such as the racing industry feed very ineffectively. Racing horses are performing at over 70% capacity for under three minutes when they race or have harder training days. Grain is fed for the primary energy source for this performance however grain energy is stored in the muscles of the horse and not in the blood. Horses race day use fast twitch fibre muscle and it's energy is sourced from sugar in the blood alone and can't be derived from that stored in the muscle. Grain serves their easier training day's purpose however is irrelevant for any training or performance over 70% capacity for over three minutes, which is the point their body switches from using slow twitch fibre muscle to fast twitch fibre muscle and it's different energy source. Sugar intake just before performing is the correct energy source for this type of work.
Sporting horses which are required to perform for over three minutes under 70 % of their maximum capacity require muscle energy and thus fibre and grain energy. You would go for a mix of Corn, being the highest energy source & Barley.
For endurance horses you would stick with barley and oils, but oils would need to be only introduced very slowly and very carefully as horses don't have a gall bladder to process oil like humans do and so it takes the body time to adjust and benefit from it. Coldpressed linseed oil for horses is the safest and best. When feeding horses another very important factor to bear in mind is Omega Ratio's: Omega 3, 6 & 9. In the natural horse environment this balance is normal, but in the domesticated environment it gets very imbalanced and can cause laminitis among other very serious complications with horses.
The all time best thing for balancing a horses Omega's is grass, grass and more grass. Hay is not a good balance, Lucern is better than plain hay. But there is one thing you can do proactively for your horses all-round health and Omega balance and that is to add whole linseeds / flaxseeds to your horses feed.
Avoid the linseed meal or linseed that has had anything done to it. They need to be kept whole, dry and cool. You add 1/4 of a cup to their feed initially. And can increase it to a maximum of 3/4 cup per day for horses who don't get a lot of grass at all. This balances their Omega's well and is especially effective in preventing and treating laminitis.
Linseeds have been used for years however there were many practices of soaking and boiling them thinking this was the safest way to feed them, they were (wrongly) taught to be toxic to horses if not ground, soaked or boiled, however the opposite is the case. You need to feed them whole and dry to be safe for horses. It is ok if your feed is wet, just make sure the linseeds aren't sitting there wet and warm then ingested for more than 24 hours.
It is a good practice to slightly dampen down feed with a bit of molasses mixed with water. This causes less internal blockages and less inhaling of dust up the nostrils, as well as less loss of nutrients to the air.
The biggest rules of safe feeding are maximum hay, minimum grain and the all time best ideal is grass.
There are many fads and variables out there like adding very potent spices to horse feeds, etc. Be very careful, horses are VERY sensitive, even the old trend of feeding seaweed, brewers yeast, apple cider vinegar, etc. does generate serious complications with horses and upset bellies, keep it natural and stick to grass or hay as much as you can and your horse will glow. Increase lucern before you add or increase grain ;) Horse health these days is more about what you refuse to feed rather than what you include.
There is also Pollen which is very natural for horses to intake as a complete super vitamin and mineral supplement, but this also dramatically increases energy and perform-ability levels. It is invaluable for feeding to high energy demand horses for their sports, safest fed in the actual BEE pollen form (there are very few Olympic athletes that don't take Bee Pollen) but it can cause a delay in fatigue onset which catches up with the horse later. So for this reason it can upset general day to day operations and must be understood and used accordingly.
This is a very effective pro-biotic for horses and is uber effective and highly recommended. Feeding a probiotic aids horse digestion, keeps everything functioning well internally, rids the body of toxins and waste more effectively and generates good health. Yea-sacc is the brand name I have found most effective, it is a powder and you can buy it online or at some produce stores and include it in the horses feed.
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