What kind of animals does horses eat

Feeding: feed horses properly

Health care for horses through good nutrition

Wild horses once roamed the steppes in large herds. Their everyday life was fundamentally different from that of our domestic horses. They spent up to 16 hours looking for food, covered many kilometers and gradually filled their stomachs with many small portions. In this way, a horse could eat 50 to 60 kilograms of pasture grass per day. If you subtract the water content, this corresponds to a dry matter content of ten to twelve kilograms. That hasn't changed. Even today, when calculating rations in horse feeding, it is assumed that two kilograms of feed are consumed in the dry matter per 100 kilograms of horse. The Digestive tract the horse has adapted to these conditions in the course of the horse's development and the associated change in the food spectrum (from forest dweller to steppe animal). Therefore roughage is the basis of every feeding plan. With light work and correspondingly high-quality hay, a horse can do without concentrated feed at all.

No long breaks to eat

The roughage plays an important role in horse feeding not only from a nutritional point of view. Due to their development history, horses have the instinctive need to constantly "nibble" and move around. Since the horse is a constant eater, the horse's stomach produces stomach acid continuously, which only saliva can neutralize. And saliva, in turn, only flows when you chew. If the stomach is idle for more than four hours, the continuously produced gastric acid attacks the mucous membrane. The Consequences of incorrect feeding: Stomach ulcers, colic. Behavioral problems up to behavioral disorders such as topping and weaving etc. are other signs of insufficient supply of sufficient food.

There are various approaches to avoid psychological and physical damage, such as:

  • More grazing
  • Open stalls with a run
  • Always provide enough roughage in the form of hay and straw

Roughage, concentrated feed, juice feed

In horse feed, a distinction is made between raw fiber-rich (roughage) and concentrated (concentrated feed) feed. The raw fiber-rich products can be moist (pasture grass, silage) and dry (hay, straw). Common concentrate feeds include oats, corn, barley and compound feed. Apples, carrots, beets and beetroot are called juice feed. They also provide energy, but above all vitamins, which are particularly relevant for nutrition when there is no fresh pasture grass available in winter.

Notepad horse feeding

  • How much hay does a horse need?
    1.5 to 2 kilograms of roughage per 100 kilograms of weight of the horse is the minimum. And: feed roughage before concentrating!
  • How should hay be fed?
    Don't hang the hay nets too high! Horses prefer to eat hay off the ground. However, a hay net that is too deep can also pose the risk of injury. For troughs and drinking troughs, the guidelines for keeping horses recommend mounting them close to the ground. The maximum height results from the formula 0.3 x height at the withers.
  • How often should concentrate feed be fed?
    Concentrated feed should be divided into at least three meals.

Protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, minerals, trace elements and vitamins are the essential nutrients that the horse needs. Really high-quality hay contains enough of it so that a horse can easily live on high-quality hay in sufficient quantities when it is in need of maintenance and also with light work. The Society for Nutritional Physiology also recommends covering at least the maintenance requirement for energy with hay or good forage straw. Regardless of how the horses are used. For a warm blood that weighs 600 kilograms, this can be 15 kilograms per day.

Energy requirements of the horse
The energy requirement is given in megajoules (MJ) per day. According to the Society for Nutritional Physiology, a warm-blooded animal weighing 600 kilograms is expected to have an energy requirement of approx. 63 MJ. This increases in extreme heat or cold and in open stalls by up to ten percent, in grazing in the herd, possibly by up to 50 percent on paddocks. Basically, however, no table can replace the horse owner's eye. The energy requirement of pregnant mares increases sharply, in the eleventh and last month of pregnancy to 90 MJ. Suckling mares consume approx. 126 MJ in the first month of the foal's life and approx. 112 MJ in the fourth. In particular, the need for crude proteins and amino acids, or protein for short, increases sharply in the foal's first month of life and then levels off again as the foal gets older. A warm-blooded foal that will weigh approx. 600 kilograms needs approx. 32 MJ from the first month of life. The need then increases to 74 MJ for two- and three-year-olds. The following also applies here: These are recommendations that may have to be adapted.

One kilogram of early harvest hay contains up to 9 MJ of energy (this corresponds to around 0.8 kilograms of oats). On the other hand, hay harvested later only contains up to 6 MJ per kilogram (corresponds to approx. 0.5 kilograms of oats). When using concentrated feed, the upper limit is a maximum of one gram of starch per meal and kilogram of horse weight. Some of the energy from the concentrate can be replaced with oil. Here, one gram per day and kilogram of horse is considered the limit.

Lack of amino acids
What is most lacking in food these days are high-quality amino acids. This is mostly due to the hay being cut too late. This is more structured, so it contains more long-stemmed stalks, but less protein. The smallest components of egg white (or protein) are precisely those amino acids. They represent the basis of all life because they represent the basis for the construction of the body's cells. Plants can produce amino acids themselves. Animals, like us humans, have to get the essential amino acids through food. High quality protein contains many of the essential, i.e. vital, amino acids. Outwardly, you can see a lack of essential amino acids in the muscles. If this is slack instead of tight and firm with the same amount of training, the suspicion is obvious. To be on the safe side, an analysis of the hay should be carried out.

Feed and complementary feed may contain substances that do not comply with the Anti-Doping and Drug Control Rules (ADMR). Which substances are in the product can usually be found in the product declaration under "Composition" and "Additives".

The ADMR search engine can be used to check whether individual substances contained in the feed may be used in competition according to the ADMR.

Some substances or additional feed occurring in the feed are generally or from a certain limit value relevant to doping, e.g .:

  • Theobromine
    Found in cocoa, chocolate and cocoa bean shells and has a stimulating effect.
  • Salicylic acid
    Contained in e.g. willow bark and meadowsweet. Has an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning effect.
  • Devil's claw
    Contains, among other things, harpagosides, which have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Nutritional behavior of the horse and the importance for keeping and health


Minerals, vitamins and feed additives

Ideally, there are enough minerals and vitamins in the hay. The only problem is: the soil is no longer as rich in nutrients as it used to be and, accordingly, neither are the plants on it. In addition, the vegetation is mostly one-sided nowadays. In the past, horses met their need for trace elements, minerals and vitamins by selectively eating certain herbs. This is hardly possible today and the hay hardly comes from cultivated areas that are characterized by a large variety of vegetation. Minerals - that is, quantity elements, the need for which is given in grams - and trace elements - which are measured in milligrams - are essential for the body because they take on various metabolic tasks. They activate enzymes and are sometimes also a part of these as well as vitamins, hormones, etc. They are also important for all tissue, bone structure, oxygen transport, etc.

The horse's need for vitamins and minerals

The vitamins are also one of those little helpers that ensure that everything runs smoothly in the organism. A distinction is made between water-soluble (B vitamins, C) and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). In some cases the horse can produce vitamins in its own body, such as vitamin C. But it has to take in minerals through food. The quantity elements that the horse needs are: calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), chlorine (Cl) and sulfur (S). Sport horses, young horses and broodmares in particular have an increased need here. With regular feeding of the riding horse under moderate stress, the supply of the quantity elements is normally guaranteed. However, you have to pay attention to the correct ratio between calcium and phosphorus. The ration should contain two parts calcium and one part phosphorus. An excess of phosphorus can lead to bone loss. Sodium, potassium, and chlorine deficiencies can occur in horses who sweat a lot. A salt lick provided freely is usually sufficient for a normally working horse. High-performance athletes (especially racing, endurance and eventing horses) lose a lot of electrolytes through their sweat (minerals that are present in the body either as positively or negatively charged particles) that a salt lick alone can hardly compensate for. This is where electrolytes in the form of sodium, potassium and magnesium chloride, which are commercially available and can be given in the drinking water as additional feed, help.

Correctly dose mineral feed

For horses that are kept exclusively on the pasture, a so-called mineral lick stone can also be useful instead of a salt lick stone. In addition, minerals and trace elements can be absorbed. However, because it is difficult to control what amounts the horses consume in this way, it is better to give a specific mineral feed that can be dosed. The crucial trace elements are iodine (I), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), selenium (Se), manganese (Mn), zinc (Sn). These are on the one hand necessary for survival, but in moderation and by no means in masses. An oversupply can even have fatal consequences. But even with massive defects it can be dangerous. The consequences range from brittle hoof horn and shaggy fur (with zinc deficiency) to immunodeficiency (e.g. with selenium deficiency) to skeletal changes (e.g. with iodine deficiency) and anemia and loss of performance (e.g. with iron deficiency). If there is a suspicion of deficiency symptoms, there are various ways to test how the horse is being looked after.

Have the food examined

You can take blood or urine samples, have a hair analysis done, or you can calculate a ration by examining the ingredients of the feed that the horse usually receives and comparing it with the requirements (information, for example, at www.ifp-lengwenat.com ). The latter is usually recommended. The University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) says that you should have your hay checked for copper, zinc and selenium content once a year - since these are the trace elements that are most frequently lacking - and then choose a suitable mineral feed. The test results can only be transferred to the entire batch if the sampled hay comes from the same harvest from the same cultivation area. It doesn't matter whether the mineral feed is served as powder, pellets, briquettes, liquid or whatever: "The main thing is that the horse eats it", as Dr. Petra Wolf from the animal nutrition department at TiHo sums it up.

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