*An Introduction To Horse Nutrition

There are two things to be said about nutrition in horses.  The first is to feed horses the way they were created to eat.  The second is that no one remembers how they were created to eat.

Ask yourself this.  Who taught you how to feed?  Then ask, who taught them?  And who taught those people?  Until you go back about 50 years you won’t find out how horses were fed when most of us didn’t have hay and none of us had sweet feed.  

With almost 50 years working with horses (I started 1973), I have been able to see nutrition move from simple feeding of a few things to feeding thousands of different feeds and supplements all geared towards a specific point in the horse’s life.  I have also watched horse owners fall into the belief that these companies are working hard for our horses.  They are not.

Did you know the interstate system of roads was not started until 1960?  There were few farmers with tractors until the late 1950’s and before this, hay was made using horses.  To rephrase this, if you wanted hay 75 years ago you hooked up your field horses and went out mowing.  We often picked up the hay and stacked it by hand.  There were few farmers with self propelled baling machines.  Only the wealthy had baled hay brought to their farm and stacked in the mow.  There were no feed stores you could call for delivery of hay and bags of grain delivered and stacked neatly in your barn in 1973.  We got our oats delivered by train in a box car.  The day bags were delivered by a semi truck was a day to remember!

Think about senior feeds.  When is a horse considered a senior?  If we walked in the woods all day would we ever find senior feed for squirrels?  If we stopped in a restaurant would there be senior feed for us (not the senior menu but foods designed for senior humans)?  No because this is a marketing gimmick.

Think about low starch food for horses.  If I offered you a plate with a donut, a plate with half a donut and a plate with no donut, which would be the low starch donut?  Correct!  The plate with no donut!  So if you want to reduce the amount of starch you feed your horse just cut in half (or more) what you are feeding.  The low starch feeds are filled with inflammatory ingredients so the “scoop” you use will still be full but it will have less starch.  Marketing at its finest.

In the last 20 years I have seen an explosion of lameness (especially suspensory injuries) as well as obesity, insulin resistance and Cushing’s disease in the horses I visit.  With sadness I also see a lot of misunderstanding of what the cause of these issues are.  In a world of human and veterinary “Whack-A-Mole” medicine, the practitioner reacts to a disease with treatments and medications.  The horse owner also reacts with supplements and elixirs in hopes of curing.    The farrier reacts with special shoes and the other horse professionals proliferate with alternative therapies all trying to cure the horse.

In reality, the horses are reacting to what you are feeding them.  Look at these topics and invest your time here because if you want to keep your horse sound and disease free you will need to feed them as they were made to be fed.  They are not humans, dogs, cattle or any other animal on this planet as far as their digestive tract and their food needs are concerned.  Actually there are only 2 other groups of animal similar to the horse in digestion: the tapir and the rhinoceros.  Dig in here for more information on the nutrition of the horse.

This is a 45 minute overview of nutrition in horses to get you started.  And remember that with a membership (coming soon) you have access to the Horsemanship Nutrition Course to dig in and get tested on what you have learned.

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