Updated: Mar 25, 2021
In the 'learn' section of this week, Nic Read (Saracens nutritionalist) demystified the world of feeds and talked about how we go about working out what brand of feed to use and the things wee need to think about when feeding our horse. You can read it here.
In our 'exercise' part for this week, Nic has provided us with 8 questions to help you decide what you should be feeding your horse as well as 3 things you can do now to give you a better knowledge of your horse and what they need.
8 questions to decide what to feed your horse
What is your horses condition?: Break your horse down into 3 sections (front, middle and back end) and score each section. We use a fat score or condition scale of 1-9, 5 being perfect with anything below that being more underweight and anything above that being more overweight. Once you have an idea or whether your horse is underweight, overweight or perfect condition you can then think about whether you need a feed that is going to help you gain, lose or maintain your horses condition,
What is your horses workload?: Decide between low, medium or hard work. Be honest with this one. As a guide, a horse in medium to hard work is one that would be training at PSG and above. You can also think about how much energy your horse uses up during work. For example, an eventing building up their stamina using canter work 2 times a week alongside jumping and hill work would need more calories than a dressage horse working at novice level 3 times a week and low intensity hacking twice a week. This will help you to decide whether your horse needs slow or fast release energy as well as how much of this energy they need.
How old is your horse?: Young horses may still be growing and developing whilst older horses can have certain health issues and will need to think about teeth and how well they are chewing their feed.
Does your horse have any health conditions?: Regardless of age, horses can suffer with all sorts of issues. Ulcers are a really common problem as well as any other health issues such as cushings, history of laminitis or an insulin resistance.
What are their droppings like?: loose droppings can be an indication of a sensitivity in the hind gut
What is their temperament like?: This is mostly about deciding whether your horse is naturally more lazy or more hot. This will be another big decider in working out whether fast or slow release energy would be more suitable for your horse.
Are all normal routine care aspects taken care of?: Things like regular dental checks and worm counts. Its an important base to cover as it can mean that any changes in feed would have a minimal effect as well as being uncomfortable for your horse.
What are you trying to achieve by changing their feed?: this is really important as it may be that you feel your horse is struggling with their energy in training, or that they need more ingredients to help with their recovery or you are just not happy with their condition. Whatever it is make sure you note down what it is that you are not as happy with so it can be a focus for your feed change.
As you answer each of these questions, it will help to slowly hone in on the right feed product for your horse. You can either research the products yourself or take your answers to a nutritionist for their advice. If you are unsure what brand to use you can find out how to pick one by reading Nic advice here.
3 things you can do now to know your horse's 'normal' better
Before you go, here are 3 things Nic suggested you can do this week to improve your knowledge of your horse, how they eat and what is 'normal' for them. This is hugely important from a health perspective as it will help you to spot any changes much quicker and you are then able to put things in place more quickly and more effectively.
Weigh your forage before you give it to your horse and weigh any that is left over for a few days. This will give you a good idea of how much forage your horse is eating, whether it is enough or not and will help you to work out whether you need to make changes to your forage routine before you focus on their hard feed. If you notice your horse changes or loses condition you ca weigh their forage again and compare it to their usual intake.
Know how much your horse usually drinks. Again the same as with forage, over a few days, count how many buckets of water your horse drinks on a normal day. Knowing how much your horse normally drinks will help you to notice if they suddenly start drinking less, extremely important during the hotter months but it also can be a sign of colic or other health problems.
Take regular condition photos of your horse. Take monthly side on and front and back shots of your horse. We see our horses every day and sometimes it is hard to see the changes in them, whether thats an improvement in their muscle or a drop or increase in their weight.