Food & Essential Supplies
The natural diet of a horse is foliage. Grass and hay typically make up the majority of what goes into a horse, be it through grazing in a pasture or hay in a stall.
This is usually supplemented by grain and feed. There are several different types available.
Horses that are not fed a mostly foliage diet run the risk of digestive problems. However, most horses don’t have access to pastures for 24 hours of the day. Because of this, hay has become a staple of any stable.
The only time a horse owner should be careful of what kind of grass a horse is consuming is in the case of a pregnant mare. This is because fescue grass, a hardy grass that makes up a majority of pastures, presents as a danger to pregnant mares. About 75 percent of fescue is infected with endophyte Acremonium coenophialum. This manifests as fescue toxicosis in expecting mares, which results in prolonged gestation, foaling difficulties, thickened placentas, and a significant decrease or complete absence of milk upon delivery. It can last after foaling as well, as mares can be difficult to become pregnant again.
To combat this, any expectant mare should be removed from all fescue grass about 90 days prior to delivery.
Oats has been the traditional grain fed to horses. This is because it is the most nutritionally balanced. Whole grain oats contain high levels of fiber and lower levels of starch. Because of this, they are easier for horses to digest and reduce the risk of colic. Oats can make a horse much more energetic, which is why it’s popular for athletic and work horses alike. Barley is a good alternative to oats because it offers similar benefits without the risk of a horse becoming overly energetic.
Horse feed and supplements are available for purchase as well. These are designed to be fed along with hay. There are three main classifications or types of feed form. The first is textured. The second is pellets. The final type is extruded feeds. All three of the forms have the same nutrients but are processed differently.
Textured feed is also known as “sweet feed” and has individual grains or other particles. Often a sweet feed will contain molasses to sweeten things up. Pellets are a feed that come in a variety of different sizes, while extruded feeds have been taken through an extra step in their process. These are created using an excess of pressure at high temperatures. It simply depends on the horse as to which feed will work best. For example, some horses like to sort through their feed and prefer either pelleted and/or extruded feed.
For an extra dosage of nutrients, horses should have access to salt and mineral blocks. These offer further nutrients to the horse through supplements, and are recommended for any livestock.
Horses love to be brushed and taken care of. It’s a bonding experience and is often the best way to gain a horse’s trust. The essentials are:
- Curry Comb: This is a tool made of rubber or plastic. It has short teeth on one side used to loosen hair, dirt and other things on the horse’s hide. It also stimulates the skin to produce natural oils.
- Hoof Pick: Designed to get debris out of a horse’s hooves, this tool has a metal pointed end and a tough brush on it.
- Brush: This is a standard brush that slips over a person’s hand. It is used after the curry comb and rids the coat of dirt and loose hair, smoothing the coat into a shine.
- Mane and Tail Brush: This often looks like a regular hair brush and is used to get tangles and debris out of the mane and tail.
It is important to find the appropriate tack for your horse if it is of rideable age. Here are the important components:
- Halter and Lead Rope - Halters fit over the horse’s head and face and help control the horse when being led around by the lead rope. This is the most often used piece of tack, so its fit is important. Halters come in various sizes and functions, and all horses should have one – no matter their age.
- Saddle and Saddle Pad - When it comes to a saddle’s fit, it’s a good idea to get a measurement. Follow a saddle fit guide if your horse can’t be taken to a saddle shop to try on saddles. This is essential for comfortable riding for both the horse and rider.
- Bridle and Bit - Bridles and bits should also be chosen carefully. Horses can require a special kind of bit, and the bridle should reflect whatever discipline the horse will be.
The final, but still essential, tools used to take care of a horse are:
- Fly Spray - Flies spread diseases and sickness, and they’re a pest. Fly sprays can help with that.
- Hoof Treatments - If in a climate of heavy rain, hoof treatments can help keep hooves healthy.
- Wound Care Kit - This is like a first aid kit for horses, kept in case of emergency.