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Increasing Forage in Your Horse's Diet

June 14, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 232

Forage is a vital part of your horse's dietary needs. Some horse owners often believe that bagged feed (mixes and cubes) is important in keeping your horse in a good condition and with plenty of energy. In many cases plenty of horses and ponies will function very well on a couple of slices of hay a day and then their bucket of hard feed (cube and mix) at breakfast and dinner. It is worth considering though, that unless your horse is competing every weekend and in hard training daily (that's some serious canter work, dressage training, endurance/point to point work) they may well be able to gain everything they need from a largely forage based diet.

Always bear in mind that your horse was meant to graze for an average of 18 hours per day, as such his teeth and intestinal tract functions to cater for such. Care must be taken when feeding diets that contain large amounts of grain and hard feed. There are many issues concerned with a high starch (in hard feed) low forage diet, including and not limited to; dietary induced laminitis, gastric ulcers, ERS ('Monday morning Sickness') and other metabolic issues such as diabetes. You may think that racing thoroughbreds are the only types that have problems with gastric ulcers, and that Shetland ponies are the only ones likely to have laminitis, but in fact both are just as probable to suffer from any of these issues if exposed to the 'correct' dietary conditions.

The causes of laminitis still haven't been properly discovered, but it is known that those eating low forage diet are at high risk of suffering from dietary induced laminitis - as with those that are overweight, though not always. By providing your horse with ad-lib hay, you imitate the horse's natural diet. Always consider that the diet that you feed your horse can put him at risk, even though he might have never shown any signs of laminitis or you think it's not an 'at risk' time of year.

When subjecting your horse to periods of time when he might not have anything to eat, even if only for a few hours over night, can lead to an acidic environment in the stomach. This is because the hydrochloric acid that is naturally in the stomach doesn't have anything to digest, very simply starts to digest the lining of the stomach. Again, providing ad-lib forage can help reduce this problem, as well as promoting chewing. Chewing promotes the production saliva, which acts as a buffer to the acid but is only produced when a horse chews. Always consider that a large amount of horses and ponies can suffer with gastric ulcers without actually showing and clinical signs.

If your horse is a bit elderly and struggles with the usual large strands of hay or haylage and you're concerned that they're not able to eat enough fibre. Never fear, there are many fibre based products on the market! Take a look at Allen & Page Fast Fibre and Topspec FibrePlus, which are soak-able or specialist veteran based chaffs that are made of softer fibres.

For further information on similar topics, visit www.AnythingEquine.co.uk who are experts in the equestrian field. They provide a range of products as well as Anything Equine equestrian articles, which offer advice and tips for those who are interested.

Source: EzineArticles
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