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Nutrition

Maintaining a correct and balance diet for your horse is important for the health of your horse. Horses require clean, high-quality feed, provided at regular intervals, and may become ill if subjected to abrupt changes in their diets.

Like all animals, horses require five main classes of nutrients to survive: water, energy (primarily in the form of fats and carbohydrates) proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Water

It is critically important for horses to have access to a fresh, clean, and adequate supply of water. Horses can only live a few days without water, becoming dangerously dehydrated if they lose 8-10% of their natural body water. Water plays an important part in digestion. The forages and grains horses eat are mixed with saliva in the mouth to make a moist bolus that can be easily swallowed.

Energy and Proteins

Nutritional sources of energy are fat and carbohydrates. Horses that are heavily exercised, growing, pregnant or lactating need increased energy and protein in their diet. Carbohydrates, the main energy and are usually fed in the form of hay, grass and grain. Soluble carbohydrates such as starches and sugars are readily broken down to glucose in the small intestine and absorbed. Fat exists in low levels in plants and can be added to increase the energy density of the diet.

Protein is used in all parts of the body, especially muscle, blood, hormones, hooves and haircells. The main building blocks of protein are amino acids. Most adult horses only require 8-10% protein in their diet; however, higher protein is important for lactating mares and young growing foals.

Vitamins and Minerals

Horses should be given a diet of fresh, green, leafy forages and high-quality grains and oats to ensure they are receiving all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Horses that are not subjected to hard work, receiving low-quality hay, under stress or not eating well may benefit from commercially prepared vitamin and mineral supplements in their diet.

Horses are also sensitive to molds and toxins. For this reason, they must never be fed contaminated fermentable materials such as lawn clippings.

Treats

Many people like to feed horses special treats such as carrots and compressed hay pellets, sugar cubes, peppermint candies, or specially manufactured horse "cookies." Be aware that horses do not need treats, and some horses may develop behavioural issues if given too many treats.