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Horse Diet

Diet for Horse:

Proper feeding is an important part of caring for any animal, and this is particularly important when it comes to horses.

Unlike herbivores such as cows, horses have only one stomach, but they still need to digest the fiber that they consume in the form of grass and hay, which are the main sources of food for horses. This is done with the help of microbes that live in their digestive system – the microbes ferment the food that is consumed, thus breaking it down and making it possible for the horse to digest and absorb the nutrients. This is one reason why horses generally eat small quantities of food throughout the day, rather than having a few large meals as humans, dogs, and many other animals do.

Horses require the same nutrients that we do – fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins (besides water of course). However, the proportions in which they require these nutrients differ considerably from humans. Generally, a fat intake of around 8 per cent of the overall dietary intake is considered healthy for horses.

Protein intake should be in roughly the same proportion, although it can be marginally more without causing diarrhea, as an excessive intake of fat will. However, young, growing foals and pregnant or lactating mares require more protein. Usually, carbohydrate intake is naturally adequate from typical food for horses, and the same applies to minerals and vitamins as long as the horse is eating enough of fresh green vegetables.

Although hay and grass make up the largest portion of a horse’s diet, they are by no means enough to provide all the necessary nutrients by themselves. Hay and grass (known as forages) should be approximately 50 per cent of a horse’s diet. However, legumes must also be an important element of forages, as they provide the required protein. Hay meant for horses is in fact a mixture of dried grasses and legumes. In addition to forages, horses are also fed “concentrates” – whole or crushed grain, which typically consists of oats or corn, or most often a mixture of the two along with some other grain. Besides this, some horses may also require supplements – they may need extra protein, vitamins, or minerals, and these may be delivered in the form of ready made mixes and pellets. Soya bean is also sometimes added for protein. Some people also give their horses treats such as sugar cubes or special cookies, and you can find numerous such horse food recipes online. However, such treats are highly inadvisable, as they can create both health and behavioral problems.   
  Submitted on July 13, 2010