Horses and humans go a long way back; before the invention of engines, humans used the horse to transport both goods and people on land.
Horses were used in medieval times and years before that for wars and long journeys since they are strong and fast.
Horses are still widely kept as pets, and they are a real comforting animal to ride or be around.
Some sports, such as polo, require the use of a horse, so it is important to know how to take care of these majestic creatures and what they eat.
Do Horses Eat Meat?
Horses are naturally herbivores, and their digestive system is meant for eating plants. There have been incidents of horses eating meat or other animal products, but it is not normal.
It is because of lack of food, poor nutrition, or sometimes curiosity. If a horse eats meat, it can digest it and gain some nutrients from it. There are places like Iceland where horses are fed salted herring when there isn’t enough grass.
What Do Horses Eat?
Naturally, horses are grazers, and they would be out in the fields grazing on the fresh grass. They have a four-stomach digestive system designed to digest and take all the necessary nutrients from their food.
If the horse is kept in a backyard or barn, you have to make sure you take good nutritional care. This includes a diet that is primarily made up of forage or grass.
You can feed them hay if that is available since it works as well as fresh grass. They can eat all types of hay, including oat, Bermuda, timothy, orchard, and alfalfa.
You can also feed the horses some grain to add to the nutrition. Concentrates such as barley, corn and oats are favorites for horses, and you can use them to top off the usual diet.
Horses drink a lot of water every day since they are large and they use a lot. On average, a healthy horse will drink about 5 to 10 gallons of water daily.
Just like people, horses love treats, and you can give them treats that are good for them. They can have apples, carrots, cherries, dates, celery, coconuts, lettuce, lemons, mangoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tangerines, peanuts, etc.
When the weather is really hot, the horses will need more water to drink up to 20 gallons of water per day. The best thing to do is ensure that there is always water near the horse to drink as much as it needs.
How Much Should You Feed Your Horse?
Knowing what a horse eats is half of the solution to taking care of a horse; the other half is knowing the correct amount of food to give your horse.
If you give the horse too much or too little food, it will affect its health. On average, you should feed a horse 2.2% of its body weight per day.
This means that horses are fed depending on their size and not age. For long-stemmed fiber, make sure the horse gets between 1.5-2% of its body weight.
An average for this is between 1kg-6kg per day to keep the adult horse healthy. Different foods will have different densities; thus, the visual size will differ. It would help if you had some visual references to help you remember.
For a beginner, you can use a scale to weigh the food, especially multi-particle, extruded, chunk textured, and the pelleted feed, so that you get an estimate of each for future use. To be safe, you should always weigh the feed before giving it to your horse.
Give the horse feeds that go with its body conditions. In some special cases, you might need to get recommendations from the vet to give the best care to your horse.
The rations for a day should not be given to the horse all at once. They should be split into 2 or 3 feeding sessions to have the maximum benefit.
A horse should not eat more than 0.5% of its weight in one sitting. Too many nutrients will poison the horse, so you have to be keen when it comes to adding a supplement to the horse’s diet.
Ensure your feeds meet the horse’s minimum mineral and vitamin requirements by topping the nutrition program off with a ration balance. These will ensure the horse stays strong as it develops from a young age.
Rules Of Feeding And Caring For A Horse
The correct type and food will help your horse follow some guidelines to emphasize the horse’s health. Here are some rules you need to follow when feeding your horse to be healthy and strong.
1. Clean the trough or buckets you use to feed your horse
You can use a scourer or sponge to clean the utensils. Scrub the utensils and rinse them with water to get all the dirt out.
Cleaning the feeding buckets before using them is important because the food might go bad in the bucket, which will make the new food sour.
Horses that are picky eaters will leave this food, which will be apparent in their physique after some time.
Cleaning the buckets also prevents cross-contamination from other horses if they are sick or use some supplements or medication that can affect healthy horses.
2. Feed little but often
Horses have small stomachs; thus, they are trickle feeders. They need to eat roughage continuously to help with digestion. You should not leave a horse longer than a few hours without food.
Keeping the horse in the field would be a good choice, that way, it can eat in whatever frequency and amount that works for the horse.
Hay and grass are important to feed as much as possible since it is a source of fiber and aids indigestion.
Ensure you feed the roses at the same time each day. Horses are habitual and like to have things done at the same time.
3. Feed the horse according to work and size
If the horse does hard work, you need to ensure that you feed it some substrates. These will give it the energy that it can’t draw from grass or hay, especially in winter when the grass has reduced sugar.
As the work reduces, so should the substrates given to the horse. The reduced work means that they burn fewer calories; thus, they need to take in less than hard workers. The weight of the horse also has to be considered when rationing food.
4. Store the food correctly
To start, you need to get high-quality forage and grain or supplements. It would help if you got sweet-smelling hay that easily separates and has no poisonous plants in it.
The hay should also have no dust or sand since it will affect the feeding and digestion of your horses.
The grain should always be kept in a place where it is dry and cool. Ensure no pests or contamination can get to it to keep the horses out of harm’s way.
5. Never feed right before or after work or exercise
Give the horse at least a 1-hour break before giving it food after exercise. When the horse is running, most blood moves to the legs and muscles responsible for running.
This means that there is a limited amount of blood around the stomach. Giving it time to settle will allow the blood to come back to the stomach; thus, digestion and absorption of nutrients will be more efficient.
6. Change the feed gradually
If you want to change the feed, make the change gradual. Introduce small amounts of the new food each day as you gradually increase it.
This will allow the horse’s stomach to get used to and be more receptive to the new food. The change should be gradual and take at least a few weeks before making the complete change.
Food has bacteria, and the horse’s stomach is very sensitive to bacteria. A sudden change in the food will affect the horse and might cause serious indigestion issues.
7. Feed the horse succulent food each day
Fruits and vegetables are good for the horse since they have a lot of vitamins and minerals. They will make for a healthier horse, and they have an added advantage when it comes to bonding.
As you feed the horse these treats, you will be spending more time with them, which is great for bonding. Having a connection with your horse will make your rides much more peaceful and therapeutic.
Horses are natural herbivores, and they don’t eat meat in normal situations. However, some scenarios where horses have eaten meat because of mineral deficiency or out of curiosity.
Some get fed salted herring when there is food inadequacy. To get a healthy horse, you must feed it regularly and with high-quality feeds.
Ensure that the food is given in small amounts but in short intervals. Provide lots of roughage since it is vital in the digestion of all the other food.