Along with exercise and training, horses also must eat the right type of feed to keep them healthy and vibrant. For horses with a demanding work schedule, higher-energy feed provides a horse with the necessary nutrients to maintain its endurance. Like humans, horses get most of their energy from feeding. However, misunderstanding how the high-energy diet works leads to health problems for your horse.
Types of Feed
Most horse ranchers understand that different horses require different types of feed. The type depends on the horse's job, age, condition and climate. Horse feed contains a variety of protein, fats, carbohydrates, water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The combination of these nutrients creates energy for the horse. Horse feed categories include cereals, protein feeds, bulk feed, compound feeds and forages. Cereals, including oats, barley and maize, give the most energy to horses.
Most horses are given forage feed, which includes grass and hay. Both are necessary for proper digestion. A simple way to create high energy is by adding oats to the feed. You add oats by crushing, rolling or cooking into the regular feed of a horse. However, if you add too many oats to the feed, also called "heating," you cause excitability in horses and ponies.
Benefits of High-Fat Diets
By limiting the forage intake, you increase the fat content of the feed by adding more grain, like corn and oats. A high-fat diet causes higher energy in horses, leading them to perform longer without fatiguing, and may prevent fewer injuries. For pregnant mares, high-fat diets provide the higher energy necessary to sustain birth and lactating. Since the digestive tract of a horse is relatively small, the energy must be fed in a dense concentrate mix.
Increasing Energy Over Time
To cause high energy in horses, farmers use a special process that safely elevates the level of energy in horses. If switching for the first time to a high-energy diet, farmers start the process gradually over a period of several days. Initially, horses exhibit a looser stool, but continue to exhibit increased energy. The effects become noticeable in the horse after about 21 days on a new, high-fat diet. Horse owners usually add one to 2 oz. of corn oil to the feed to improve the sheen of a horse's coat. When on the diet, horses experience increased energy from a higher level of corn oil. If using another source of fat, farmers replace 10 percent of the recommended grain intake for the horse with any fat source to supply more energy.
- Horse Feeding Management: High-Fat Diets for Horses
- Alliance Nutrition Equine; Are You Feeding a Low-Starch Horse Feed?; Judith A. Reynolds, Ph.D., PAS
- "Understanding Equine Nutrition: Your Guide to Horse Health Care and Management"; Karen Briggs; 2007
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