Does your horse have the best diet possible?
This is a trick question – because calculating your horse’s diet is complicated. It’s not nearly as simple as taking his weight to calculate how much forage to feed, and then adding a grain or fortified feed, and layering on supplements.
- There are factors to consider beyond your horse’s weight, like his exercise levels, any metabolic disorders or other illnesses he may have, his age, his breed, what’s in his pasture, the type of hay he eats and also where it comes from, and more.
- I will always suggest working with an Equine Nutritionist to create a diet formulated for your horse. I did this, and I found out that my plan was missing in several key areas and overabundant in others. The new Nutritionist created plan saved me tons of money, too, as I was able to use more appropriate feeds in smaller amounts and have new, and fewer, supplements to avoid the overlap.
But how do we even get the idea that our horse’s diet may not be the best it can be? You will have to look for subtle signs that your horse is telling you, which may or may not include the following:
- A dull coat. It might also be that it’s winter, or your horse could have a truly dull coat. For true bloom and shine to happen, it’s a combination of grooming and your horse’s health. Certainly, a poor coat indicates something – it might be diet, it could be parasites, it could be infrequent grooming.
- Resistance to exercise. Your horse could be missing some energy requirements, or he might not like his job.
- Too much energy and acting generally hot. Hot horses might be hot because of their disposition and no diet change will do anything. OR, your horse could be hot because he’s getting too much energy. I also will never forget the words of an Equine Nutritionist who said that when horses are fed properly, they are more themselves. Of course, they might be hotter when they actually feel good. On that note, please don’t use your horse’s diet to regulate what might be his given nature at the expense of proper nutrition.
- A snarky attitude. If your horse isn’t eating well, he likely isn’t feeling well either. Or it could be saddle fit or arthritis or ulcers or any number of things.
- Sudden changes in weight. This could be seasonal, caused by a disease, or related to diet. Dig deep to find out, and in cases like this, absolutely get the Vet involved pronto.
- Poor hoof health. There are lots of reasons for poor hoof health, diet is one of them. It’s extremely difficult to differentiate genetics vs. diet. vs. lifestyle when talking about hoof health and hoof growth, they all go hand in hand.
- Strange or unusual manure. Another great example of something that may be directly related to diet, or indirectly related to diet. A poor diet will typically yield poor manure, but so will colitis, some sort of parasite, diarrhea, or any other internal issues.
Well, very clearly, I have no point in this article.
- Except that you are your horse’s caregiver, and first in line to be the Lead Detective in memorizing your horse and investigating when something’s not right. Tap into your team of vet, farrier, equine nutritionist, saddle fitter, trainer, and more to truly determine if your horse’s diet is the best it can be.
- A thorough consolation with an equine nutritionist is affordable and will likely save you some mega-bucks over time, not just in monthly feed and supplement costs, but also peace of mind.
How have you figured out your horse’s diet wasn’t quite right?