HomeExpert AdviceArticleTaking the fuss out of feeding

We all want to provide our horses with the best and most suitable diet but knowing what to feed – and how much – is a nutritional minefield. Dodson & Horrell explains why using a prepared mix takes away the guesswork and gives you peace of mind

Dodson&Horrell feeding

Photo credit: Nico Morgan Media

Over the millennia, horses have evolved to be very efficient feeders, making effective use of relatively low-energy foodstuffs. Of course, the physical demands we place on our domesticated animals and the way we keep them mean we have to feed a little extra compared with what a horse might eat in the wild but striking the right balance between a natural diet and food with a bit more oomph is quite a science. This is where ready-made products come to the rescue.

Flexible feeding

The basis of an equine diet is fibre and this comes mainly in the form of grass and hay or haylage. However, on its own, it’s not enough to provide everything an active horse needs for its daily energy consumption and to stay healthy.

Most horses kept at home or on livery yards are in light to medium work, which covers everything from occasional hacks through to regular schooling and competition. This workload might also vary according to season, so it’s useful to use a feed that has a degree of flexibility to allow for changes in activity and/or condition. One of the dilemmas horse owners face is how to provide a feed packed with nutrition that doesn’t cause their horse to become excitable or to put on too much weight and can be adjusted easily when necessary.

What to look for in a feed

Fibre: For horses, there’s no such thing as too much fibre, and while most of a horse’s ration will come from his grazing and forage provision, there are fibrous ingredients that might be included in his bucket ration, too. One popular option is oatfeed, oat husk or oat straw – part of the oat plant. Not to be confused with oat grains, which contain high levels of energy and starch, these other parts of the plant contain a much greater proportion of fibre, fewer calories and less starch. They support cool headedness in contrast to the grain element.

Protein content: Horses obtain most of the protein they need each day from the forage they eat. Protein is also one of the three main energy sources, with the others stemming from oils and carbohydrates. A low-protein feed is ideal for horses and ponies in low to medium work, or for animals that need a special diet on recommendation of the vet.

Vitamins and minerals: These are needed in the correct amounts to maintain healthy tissue and for running the biochemistry of the horse’s metabolism.

Palatability: It’s all well and good a feed being nutritionally suitable for your horse, but at the end of the day, he needs to want to eat it. Blends of herbs, as well as tasty ingredients such as garlic and mint, are often included for added flavour!

The year-round feed in a bag

Dodson & Horrell’s Pasture Mix is a perfectly balanced feed that can be fed at any time of year. It’s oat-grain free and has low levels of protein, oils and carbohydrates, making it nutritious while remaining non-heating. With its added vitamins and minerals, it provides a balanced diet.

Not only is Pasture Mix an easy-to-feed all-rounder suitable for the majority of horses and ponies, it also tastes great. To tempt even the fussiest feeder, it has built into it the three most commonly supplemented items of the equine diet, namely garlic, mint and carrot, and a special aromatic herbal blend that horses find delicious.

Pasture Mix has been safely fuelling horses for generations and it’s an ideal choice for those in light to medium work. The feeding rate has a degree of flexibility built in to ensure that it’s possible to lower the amount provided to reflect decreases in workload, or alternatively, when body condition and/or bodyweight has crept too far upwards.

While it can be fed on its own, if you’re looking for a short-chop forage to pair it with, look no further than Dodson & Horrell’s Fibre Fusion. Containing a palatable blend of sainfoin, alfalfa and grass, with added digestive support and oil for sparkle inside and out but without the fizz.

 

For feeding advice or for more information on Dodson & Horrell’s range of feed, visit dodsonandhorrell.com or call 01270 782223

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