Yes, I’m not kidding!
A healthy diet is not only important for us, but also very much so for our four-legged buddies.
I often get the feeling that many horse-owners don’t know what their horse needs in its diet and just buy whatever looks like a fancy muesli mix.
First of all, what a normal and healthy horse really needs is ample water, unrestricted straw and hay, some grass and maybe some of them a few scoops of oats.
Horses are grazing animals, which means they spend most of their day munching on something. They have to! If a horse is deprived of hay or grass for too long it can cause digestive problems, a notable decrease in performance and even dangerous colics.
Daily hay ration: 10 – 15 kg (depending on the size of your horse)
This article is about feeding horses, but then I so often see people stuffing their already fat and under-trained ponies and horses with mueslies, apples and other stuff they certainly don’t need. So, whenever you think about buying feed for your horse or thinking about changing its diet, ask yourself: does he/she really need this?
Over-feeding is not horse-love, it’s animal cruelty.
Another word of caution must be said about horses with special requirements, such as horses with hay allergies, summer itch or laminities (often seen in ponies, Icelandic horses and Haflingers). Please make sure to discuss every aspect of their diets with your vet, even ask about how to regulate grazing times on the meadows and what their stable bedding should be like!
To prevent the development of such ailments in your horse, always make sure your horse isn’t being oversupplied with proteins. Do your horse the favour and never give them more than what is recommended to feed per 100 kg of horse-weight, ask your vet if you don’t know what your horse might weigh.
Now, this is a little list of feeds and supplements for a healthy horse diet. The order is decreasing with importance and/or frequency of feeding those items:
I’m a big fan of herbs. They are mild, natural but effective supplements to balance your horse’s diet and help it with ailments it might have.
There’s many different herbs and herb mixtures to help with the change of fur, hooves, lungs and respiratory problems, joints, muscles, nervosity and many other things.
Our 25-year old tall, slightly skinny and arthritic ex-athlete gets these herbs:
For his heart:
For his arthritis:
- dried ginger
- devil’s claw (or grapple plant)
Those two I need to switch every few weeks. Read up on your herbs, don’t feed them blind!
2x / year a little detox for 6 weeks each:
- milk thistle herb (to help detox his liver)
- goldenrod (to help detox his kidneys)
There’s lots of different herbs for different requirements. Some can be fed long-term, others only for a short period of time. It’s always important to be sure about the exact amount (yes, I weigh Wesley’s 36 grams/day of each herb).
If you don’t know too much about herbs and what amounts and periods to feed them, make sure to ask your vet or an equine health practitioner, such as your Osteopath.
In case you live in Germany, I can only recommend my herb supplier – they are super-fast, have subscription options with mixtures depending on the season, and an in-house horse health expert who will advise you via email or phone: www.deganius.de
carrots, parsnips and beetroot
A great and healthy treat for all kinds of horses.
Can be fed up to 1 kg per day and regulates digestion as well as increasing appetite.
For horses with bad teeth or “senior” jaws, you might want to chop up the carrots into small, mouth-sized pieces.
Mineral mixes are generally something I’d recommend feeding. But be aware of what your horse might be missing in its daily hay and grass supply. Speak to your farmer or vet.
The prepared mineral mix I feed (only 2x/week – we have very fat meadows) consist of:
Calcium carbonate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium chloride, wheat germ, wheat flour, wheat bran, brewer’s yeast, Magnesium oxide, soya oil
- linseed oil
The perfect supplement for a shiny coat & strong hooves. I feed it during fur-changing season.
- mixed-seed oil or sunflower oil
This is good for coat and digestion, I feed it the rest of the year since my old boy doesn’t utilise his food very well any more and tends to get skinny.
- Marigold and plantain oil help with itchy skin.
Oils are especially useful when the seasons are turning and they are shedding or growing their winter fur. Don’t feed oils to overweight horses though!
mueslies and other stuff
I much prefer mixing hay cubes, corn cubes or flakes (only for light horses or skinny old ones!) and squeezed oats myself. The cubes need a while to soak – but then I’m rarely out there for less than an hour. This is also much cheaper than ready-made mueslies are.
If you really feel you need to feed pre-mixed muesli or when time is of the essence, then buy grain-free and molasses-free muesli.
I’m assuming here, you don’t happen to have a horse in the stable that gets heavily trained every single day and goes to tournaments every weekend.
If you do, then make sure they also get the following:
supplements for athletes
- electrolytes (especially when they have been sweating a lot)
- grains (in addition to oats)
Only needed with underweight horses or real athletes, not for leisure horses.
apples and bananas
Feed apples and bananas sparingly and not too frequently, as a high-sugar diet can cause many health issues in your horse.
An apple before a training session might perk your buddy up, though!