Welcome to the “Feeding for a Horse’s Lifestyle and Body Weight: Equine Nutrition Webinar” hosted by the New York State Horse Council. We’re thrilled to have you here tonight as part of our four-part series on equine nutrition, co-hosted with Purina Horse Feed. This webinar focuses on the importance of forage in a horse’s diet, different types of feeds, feeding according to lifestyle and body weight, ration balancers, feeding directions, body condition scoring, and the role of personal and horse preferences in feed choices. Our goal is to provide you with valuable information and resources to ensure your horse receives the proper nutrition for optimal health and well-being. We encourage you to reach out to our speaker, Megan Kraut, for further information or to discuss any specific horse nutrition concerns. So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about choosing the right feed for your equine partner!

Good evening everyone! Thank you for joining us today for our equine nutrition Webinar Series, co-hosted by the New York State Horse Council and Purina Horse Feed. I’m Sarah Collier, the recording secretary on the New York State Horse Council’s board of directors. The New York State Horse Council is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a unified voice for all horse enthusiasts in New York State. As part of our mission, we provide educational opportunities like this four-part series to support the preservation and future of horses in our state. Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Megan Kraut, Purina’s Equine Sales Specialist, who will be discussing the importance of choosing the right feed for your horse’s needs. This webinar is recorded and will be available on our YouTube channel, so you can always refer back to it for future reference. Throughout the presentation, feel free to type any questions you have in the chat box, and we’ll address them at the end. So let’s get started and learn more about proper equine nutrition together!

Understanding Equine Nutrition

Equine nutrition refers to the study and practice of providing horses with a balanced and appropriate diet to meet their nutritional needs. This involves understanding the essential nutrients required by horses, the sources of these nutrients, and the feeding practices that promote horse health and performance.

Proper equine nutrition is vital for maintaining the overall health and well-being of horses. A well-balanced diet can prevent nutritional deficiencies and help horses thrive physically and mentally. It also plays a significant role in supporting the athletic performance, energy levels, and immune function of horses.

Role of Forage in Horse Diet

Forage, such as hay and pasture, is a crucial component of a horse’s diet. Horses are herbivores and have evolved to consume high-fiber diets primarily composed of plant material. Forage provides essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins, necessary for normal bodily functions.

Horses need forage for several reasons. Firstly, forage stimulates saliva production, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Chewing forage helps prevent issues like colic and gastric ulcers. Additionally, forage requires prolonged chewing, which promotes dental health and prevents boredom and vices.

There are two main types of forage commonly fed to horses: hay and pasture. Hay is dried grass or legume, usually harvested and stored for later use. Pasture, on the other hand, refers to grazing land with living grass and other plants.

Both hay and pasture have their advantages. Hay provides a consistent and controlled source of forage, especially when pasture is limited or during certain seasons. Pasture, on the other hand, offers variety and natural grazing behavior for horses.

Different Types of Horse Feeds

While forage should form the foundation of a horse’s diet, additional feeds may be necessary to meet specific nutritional requirements. Various types of horse feeds are available on the market, each with its own characteristics and benefits.

There are three main types of horse feeds: forages, concentrates, and supplements. Forages include hay and pasture, which we have already discussed. Concentrates are feeds that are higher in energy and other nutrients and often come in textured or pelleted forms.

Textured feeds consist of grains and other ingredients mixed together, providing a more natural presentation similar to what a horse might encounter in the wild. Pelleted feeds, on the other hand, are processed into small, uniform pellets for ease of feeding and storage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Feed Types

Textured feeds have the advantage of mimicking a horse’s natural feeding behavior, with the varied textures and tastes stimulating saliva production and ensuring proper digestion. However, textured feeds may be more prone to spoilage and dust, and some horses may be picky eaters and dislike the texture.

Pelleted feeds, on the other hand, provide a convenient and consistent source of nutrition. They are less likely to spoil or attract pests and can be easily measured and stored. However, horses may consume pelleted feeds more quickly, reducing the time spent chewing and potentially impacting digestion.

Ultimately, the choice between textured feeds and pelleted feeds may depend on the individual horse’s preferences and specific nutritional needs.

Feeding According to Lifestyle and Body Weight

Feeding horses according to their lifestyle and body weight is essential for maintaining their health and optimal performance. Horses in different stages of life and with varying activity levels have different nutritional requirements.

The amount of feed and the feeding schedule should be adjusted based on the horse’s activity level, metabolic rate, and body weight. For example, a highly active performance horse may require more calories and nutrients compared to a sedentary companion horse.

Determining the correct feeding amounts and schedules can be done through consultation with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist. They can assess the horse’s specific needs and develop a feeding plan tailored to their requirements.

Adjustments in feeding plans may also be necessary when a horse’s body weight changes significantly. Weight gain or loss can occur due to factors such as increased or decreased exercise, pregnancy, or age-related changes. Monitoring body weight and making appropriate adjustments ensures that the horse receives optimal nutrition.

Introduction to Ration Balancers

Ration balancers are specialized horse feeds designed to provide essential nutrients without adding excess calories. They are particularly beneficial for horses that have low caloric needs or limited access to forage. One such ration balancer is Purina’s Enrich Plus.

Ration balancers help ensure that horses receive adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, even when their forage intake is limited. They can be especially useful in situations where horses require additional nutrients to support growth, reproduction, or athletic performance.

Purina’s Enrich Plus is a highly palatable ration balancer that provides essential nutrients in a concentrated form. It is designed to complement a forage-based diet and can be fed in small amounts, making it a cost-effective solution.

Feeding Directions: Weight vs. Volume

When determining the appropriate amount of feed to give to a horse, it is preferable to base the measurement on weight rather than volume. Feeding by weight ensures a more accurate and consistent intake of nutrients.

Weight-based feeding takes into account the varying densities of different types of feeds. For example, a pound of textured feed does not have the same nutritional content as a pound of pelleted feed. By weighing the feed, horse owners can ensure that their horses receive the correct amount of nutrients, regardless of the feed type.

Volume-based feeding, such as using a scoop or a measuring cup, may result in inconsistencies in nutrient intake. The density of the feed can vary, leading to inaccurate portion sizes. Additionally, factors such as settling or compression of the feed can affect volume measurements.

By following weight-based feeding guidelines, horse owners can ensure that their horses receive consistent and appropriate amounts of feed.

Body Condition Scoring

Body condition scoring is a method used to assess a horse’s weight and overall body composition. It involves visually and physically evaluating key areas of the horse’s body to determine its body fat and muscle distribution.

A body condition score typically ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 being extremely thin and 9 being obese. The ideal body condition score for most horses is around 5 or 6, where the ribs are palpable but not visible, and there is a slight fat covering over the ribs and loin area.

Body condition scoring can help horse owners monitor their horse’s weight and make informed feeding adjustments. If a horse is underweight or overweight, adjustments can be made to the feeding plan to promote weight gain or weight loss, respectively.

Regular body condition scoring allows horse owners to track changes in their horse’s condition and make appropriate dietary and management changes to support optimal health.

Role of Personal Preferences in Feed Choices

While the nutritional needs of horses should be the primary consideration when choosing their feed, personal preferences can also play a role in decision-making. Horse owners may have their own preferences based on factors such as ease of use, availability, and cost.

It is essential to strike a balance between personal preferences and the horse’s nutritional needs. Consulting with equine nutrition experts and considering the horse’s individual requirements can help guide feed choices that meet both the owner’s preferences and the horse’s nutritional needs.

Conclusion

Understanding equine nutrition is crucial for promoting the health and performance of horses. Providing horses with a well-balanced and individualized diet based on their lifestyle, body weight, and nutritional requirements is essential.

Forage, such as hay and pasture, should form the foundation of a horse’s diet, as it provides essential nutrients and supports proper digestion. Different types of horse feeds, including textured and pelleted feeds, can be used to supplement forage and meet specific nutritional needs.

Feeding plans should be adjusted according to changes in a horse’s lifestyle, body weight, and health. Ration balancers, such as Purina’s Enrich Plus, can be beneficial for horses with limited forage intake or specific nutrient requirements.

Weight-based feeding is preferred over volume-based feeding to ensure accurate nutrient intake. Regular body condition scoring allows horse owners to monitor their horse’s weight and make necessary adjustments to the feeding plan.

While personal preferences may influence feed choices, it is essential to prioritize the horse’s nutritional needs. Striking a balance between preferences and nutritional requirements ensures the overall health and well-being of horses.

In conclusion, proper equine nutrition is key to the overall health, well-being, and performance of horses. By understanding the importance of forage, different feed types, individualized feeding plans, ration balancers, and body condition scoring, horse owners can make informed decisions to meet their horse’s nutritional needs. It is encouraged to seek further engagement and learning in the field of equine nutrition to optimize horse health and welfare.