For­age Facts

Horse & Rider - - Conformation Clinic -

The av­er­age horse con­sumes 2 to 2.5 per­cent of his body­weight in for­age each day. This means your 1,000-pound horse should have be­tween 20 and 25 pounds of hay each day, as­sum­ing he doesn’t spend time on pas­ture. With this in mind, why do you spend hours ag­o­niz­ing over the best con­cen­trate to meet your horse’s needs, yet sim­ply “set­tle” on what’s avail­able when it comes to hay?

The right hay can pro­vide 100 per­cent of the re­quired nu­tri­ents for many horses. And in a per­fect world, your horse would be nib­bling on long­stem for­age (pas­ture or hay) 24-7, just as he would in the wild. Eat­ing all day long not only en­sures that his gas­troin­testi­nal tract func­tions prop­erly, but also keeps his mind at ease.

But a per­fect world is some­times un­re­al­is­tic. If you can’t meet all your horse’s nu­tri­tional needs with hay, he should have a min­i­mum of 1 per­cent of his body weight per day in long-stem fiber. Stud­ies show that when to­tal ra­tion par­ti­cle size falls be­low one inch, colic risks in­crease and be­hav­ior vices, such as wood chew­ing, be­come more fre­quent.

Be­yond the need for long-stem fiber, di­gestible en­ergy (calo­ries), pro­tein con­tent, and car­bo­hy­drate lev­els are three im­por­tant com­po­nents of your horse’s diet. Here’s a run­down of each one.

Di­gestible en­ergy: The term “di­gestible en­ergy” (DE) refers to calo­ries per pound. In prac­ti­cal terms, the higher

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