Whether you are a 12-year-old girl that finally got her parents convinced to get her a horse or an adult to who was finally able to fulfill their own childhood dream of owning a horse, Congratulations! You are in for a love that will last a lifetime. Horses have such a special sense about them. Now that you are a horse owner, you have a huge responsibility to care for that horse. Horses aren‰Ûªt just a hobby, they are a lifestyle. As you may have already found out, you will catch yourself spending all your free time hanging around or taking care of your horse. By taking the best care of your horse, you can help ensure a healthy life for your horse. The basis to your horse's health is nutrition.
Water- A Vital Nutrient for Your Horse
Your horse should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. It is an essential nutrient needed for digestion, thermoregulation, and overall bodily functions. The average horse at maintenance consumes 5 to 10 gallons of water a day. Like humans, however, individual horses can vary greatly consumption of water, so water should be checked and changed often.
Factors that affect your horse's water consumption
- Temperature: Increase water intake with temperatures above 85 F; Decreased water intake with temperatures below 45F
- Hay vs grass: Horses on hay consume less water as compared to lush green pasture because grass is 60-80% water meeting their water requirement without them needing to drink as much
- Protein intake: Horses on a high protein diet, such as alfalfa hay or large amounts of high protein grains, urinate more and therefore their water requirement increases
- Sodium intake: Salt or electrolytes increase water requirements
- Exercise level: As a horse's exercise level increases, water requirements increase
- Stool: A horse with diarrhea will lose water and therefore require more water to compensate
Hay/Forage for Your Horse
After water, hay or grass should make up most of your horse's diet. The average horse consumes 1-2% of their body weight in hay. So, a 1,000 pound horse would consume approximately 20 pounds of hay a day. Horses are naturally grazing animals. Their bodies have developed to consume forage continuously throughout the day. Therefore, you should feed your horse at least twice a day, and consider investing in a slow-feeder so that your horse can nibble on feed throughout the day. A horse that is only allowed to eat a few meals a day will gorge themselves and once the contents have emptied from the stomach, the acid will continue to secrete into an empty stomach. This can lead to ulcers. Choose a type of hay that best suits your horse. A horse that wants to stay a little heavy doesn't need alfalfa hay, or to be turned out on lush, green grass. Forages like this for an easy-keeper will only increase the chance of your horse developing insulin resistance. You are better to choose lower energy hay, such as Bermuda or Teff, for an easy-keeper so they can consume more without getting too many calories. On the other hand, if have a horse that stays on the thin side consider feeding alfalfa to increase their caloric intake.
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