Horse Nutrition Tips

Five things you should know about how to feed your horse.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

Back in the day, many of us who grew up with horses had a more “traditional” view of feeding and equine nutrition. Maybe our horses were only fed a handful of feed as a treat or reward, but it wasn’t part of a solid nutrition program. Today, horse owners are more educated when it comes to feed, but it’s always good to be reminded of some of the basics. Here are five important things to know about feeding your horse:

The purpose of feed. Most feeds are designed to provide a horse with the nutrients that hay or pasture alone cannot. Many people think of feed as simply providing “energy,” which many of them do. When it comes to feed, you generally get what you pay for, so very often, the less expensive feeds are designed to provide the minimum amount of nutrition. That’s why it’s important that you select the right feed for your horse so that he is getting the balance of nutrients that fit his needs, be it energy, biotin or high-quality proteins, fed consistently. Once you find the right nutrition for your horse, you might be amazed at how good he looks and how happy he seems.

Paying more for feed can save money in the long run. It’s easy to think it makes sense to feed an inexpensive mix combined with supplements to provide what the feed doesn’t, as opposed to feeding a fully fortified feed. For the most part, a high-quality, fortified feed that is fed at the right amount removes the need for most supplements and, you might be surprised to find it can be cheaper.

Now that you know your horse is receiving the right amount of nutrients, it's time to hit the trails. Let AQHA help you plan your next riding adventure. With AQHA's Recreational Riding report, you'll gain ideas on new places to ride as well as trail riding safety tips. Download the report today so you can spice up your next ride!

There are a few exceptions where it is either illegal or extremely difficult to include specific nutrients in a feed, such as joint support (it is against the law to include any ingredient that is considered a drug in horse feed). In those instances, it does make sense to add a supplement to provide what the feed cannot.

Feeding directions do make a difference. Feeding directions matter because most feeds are formulated to provide a specific concentration of nutrients based on the pounds (not scoops) that are fed, which is a ratio of your horse’s weight. In order to feed at the recommended levels, you need to know how much your horse weighs and how much your feed weighs. Many of us grew up feeding just a scoop, regardless of the horse or feed. Taking this approach will often mean under- or over-feeding your horse. If you start to feed at the recommended feeding levels and notice your horse not being in ideal body condition, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate whether you’re feeding the right feed.

Those extras actually do count for something. Some horse owners believe that the extra “stuff” provided in a fully fortified feed is just foo-foo dust or tag dressing. But it’s important to realize that it’s not just about adding another line to the guaranteed nutrients tag; these ingredients really provide a benefit to the horse. The little things that are added do make a visible improvement in hoof quality, hair coat and even muscling.

Knowing your horse is the best way to feed him. Unlike production animals, humans have been selectively breeding horses for attributes other than feed efficiency. Therefore, the general horse population has a wide range of nutrition needs from the easy keeper to the hard keeper and everything in between. Staying closely tuned into your horse, changes in his performance, attitude and body condition score throughout the year and how he reacts to his feed and forage is all part of managing him as an individual. When his job changes (increase or decrease in workload) or he reaches the next life stage, it’s important to re-evaluate his feeding program to provide him what he needs.

Feeding your horse a balanced diet is an important part of his health. Another key contributor to a healthy equine? Exercise! Hit the trails with your horse like never before this spring with the help of AQHA's Recreational Riding report. Download this report and you'll discover new ideas for your next horsey excursion that'll keep you and your horse in-shape and having a blast!

We’ve come a long way in our knowledge of nutrition and equine management. Thanks to ongoing scientific research, our horses can enjoy an improved level of nutrition, performance and appearance.

For more information on horse feed, feeding tips, digestive health, and equine management, visit HorseFeedBlog.com. If you’d like information on identifying signs of aging and tips for feeding your senior horse, visit SeniorHorseSigns.com.