The individual variation of feed requirement and body condition must be given consideration for planning the feeding regimen of the horses. Some horses perform best while being trim or empty stomach whereas others exhibit their best when their body condition is optimum.
The growth, development, and expectations from the horse regarding its performance will determine the extent of feeding especially in the early days.
Both overfeeding and under-feeding are harmful to the horses, therefore, the diet has to vary as per the requirement of the horse and its physiological status. Horse feeding habits must be given due consideration when feeding them.
All feed ingredients of horses should be free from extraneous substances such as weeds, dust, mold, etc. The feed box should be cleaned regularly and its hygiene should also be maintained.
There should be a proper feeding timetable for horses. Abrupt changes in diet plans should not be permitted. However, if a change is required, it should be progressed slowly.
The well-being of horses depends a lot on the exercise routine. It helps to keep them in shape for riding, racing, work, and performance besides it improve their appetite, digestion, and overall condition.
A clear, wholesome, and freshwater source should always be available to the horse.
A source of salt or complete mineral mixture should always be available for horses at all times which gives them an opportunity to take extra minerals depending upon their requirements.
The feed of the horses must contain roughages, otherwise, the heavy feed concentrates are likely to pack the stomach. However, feeds too high in fiber may also cause discomfort or digestive disturbances especially in racehorses.
To avoid teeth issues focus should be paid on oral hygiene and dental care of horses. Dental problems badly affect the chewing and feeding process of animals.
The feed of the greed eaters should be monitored and thinned out in the feed box.
Weighing of horses to find out gain or loss in the condition is a valuable parameter to decide the response of feed and effects of changing in feeding schedule.
To avoid overfeeding and underfeeding, horses should be fed in groups according to their breed, age, growth, or development stage.
Foals should be allowed access to creep feed so that they achieve the maximum for their growth and bone development as the mare’s milk falls short of almost all essential feed nutrients.
Regular deworming and health inspections are important to keep horses healthy. Parasitic infestation and other infectious diseases cause a decrease in feed intake, feed efficiency, and body weight. Therefore, keep stables clean and remove the manure timely to avoid such losses.
The digestive tract of horses is limited in size and feeding large quantities of grain or concentrate feeds at one time results in the higher frequency of colic and grain founder. Therefore high-performance horses which require a large amount of energy from grain or concentrates sources should be fed three to four times daily instead of two times. More frequent horse feeding with fewer portions in each one will reduce founder, colic, and other digestive problems.
The grain portion of the diet of high-performance horses should be reduced if they are not being exercised. The roughage portion can be suitably increased. This is essential to prevent azoturia or Monday morning sickness, which causes muscle spasms or tetany.
The diet of horses must contain roughage to provide adequate fiber. This will reduce the incidence of vices such as wood chewing, tail, and mane biting. It will also decrease the incidence of digestive disorders.
The horses should not be exercised after feeding as the stomach contents are likely to cause pressure on the diaphragm leading to labored breathing due to restriction in the lung expansion. Secondly, the absorption of nutrients is also affected as the blood circulation is diverted from the splanchnic bed of blood vessels around the intestines to vital organs, reducing the absorptive process.