Living in Australia we are all too often faced with the prospect of drought and feeding your horses through these hard times can be a challenge. Feed and hay prices increase, quality varies and access to pasture is very limited, hopefully we can offer a few tips to try and keep your horse happy and heathy through these dry times.
- Increase intake of grassy hay above the hay ration you are already feeding. Horses should consume a minimum of 1% of their body weight in roughage per day.
- Use a slow feeder or bale feeder to try and reduce wastage, horses should have constant access to forage just as if they were grazing on grass in their paddocks.
- The addition of some alternative fibre sources, such as increasing chaff in your ration or introducing a super fibre or complete feed that has a high fibre content (all new feeds should be introduced gradually).
- Try to limit feeding your horse’s hay on the ground, this avoids them picking up too much dirt and sand whilst eating, which can cause digestive upsets such as sand colic.
It’s not just important to manage roughage intake but we also need to make sure our horse’s nutritional requirements are being met. Without access to green pasture and an increase in hard feeds our horse’s diet can be lacking in some important vitamins and minerals. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure your horse has a balanced and nutritional feed ration.
- Include a vitamin and mineral supplement to your ration. These don’t have to be expensive, such as Ranvet’s Ration Balancer. If your horse is just resting in the paddock, the average horse only requires 30g a day to meet all their daily nutritional requirements. This can be adjusted depending on a horse’s exercise level and size.
- Addition of an oil to their diet for an easily digestible cool energy source
- Place a salt lick in for your horse so they have free access to help maintain hydration and fluid balance.
- The addition of some electrolytes to your horse’s diet, this helps replace those lost through fluid loss and helps stimulate the thirst response to prevent dehydration.
- It’s extremely important that your horse has constant access to plenty of fresh clean water.
- Monitor horses condition closely to ensure they are maintaining a good body score and adjust ration as required.
Another few important considerations; keep an eye on your horse’s paddock. Many weeds are poisonous to horses and even though horses are fussy eaters if grass is not available, they can be known to eat some weeds, so maintaining a clean paddock is a good idea. As paddocks dry out dust increases, which unfortunately can lead to respiratory conditions so keeping a close eye on your horse’s health is important, and always seek the advice of your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Nutritional requirements will vary for each horse depending on what they are currently doing, the quality of the feed they have access to and where they are being kept, so adjusting rations for individual horses’ needs is important. Horses in work, broodmares and young horses still growing will require more to maintain condition through dry times than a horse just spelling in the paddock.
If you have any doubts or questions regarding your horses diet, it is easy to seek the advice of a nutritionist to ensure you are doing what you need to keep your horse happy and healthy. You can submit your ration for a free diet analysis anytime via Diet Evaluation | Ranvet