Horses are one of the most beautiful animals you can own or care for, but knowing how to care for them properly can be a bit of a challenge. As with any animal, a horse requires different nutrition at different stages of life. Knowing what to feed at what stage of life can make a big difference in the health of your horse.
Forage is the Key
By the time a horse has reached its third year, most of its growing is done. There may be some more filling out to do, and depending on the breed there may be a bit more height to reach, but for the most part, the serious growing of the horse is done. So the needs for high protein and high concentrates are diminished. The best thing you can do is provide good, high-quality forage for your three-year-old horse to eat. The best way to feed is free choice. If you must break up the feedings, you should feed at least twice a day. If you are feeding good quality coastal, timothy or oat hay, you do not need to feed any grain at all.
Concentrates and Supplements
Although a standard three-year-old does not need any grain while on a diet of all-he-can-eat good quality forage, it is important to provide mineral and salt supplements to him for proper bone growth and overall health. Giving the horse a mineral block is usually sufficient to provide for its basic needs. If your three-year-old is going to be shown, feeding small amounts of grain and other concentrates to make its coat shiny and keep it in prime show "shape" is acceptable, as long as you do not overload it with protein and calories. This is asking for the horse to founder or colic.
In general, if you are feeding quality hay and concentrates, it is not necessary, and can even be harmful, to feed vitamins or additional nutritional supplements. Most bagged feeds contain a properly balanced vitamin mix already, and if you add more you mess up the balance. Another thing to consider when adding vitamins to feed is how it may affect the horse's energy level. Three-year-old horses are already quite rambunctious, and the more energy you provide in their feed, the harder they are going to be to handle. Keep this in mind when feeding your young adult horse.
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