We’ve got to keep them in ways that mirror their evolution as closely as possible. Close to other horses, with space to move and plenty of access to roughage. Sounds easy, right? Not.
So let’s look at feeding for a minute. Horses are designed to consume large amount of roughage over a long period of time. We can get technical about percentages, timeframes and vitamin and mineral balancing but when it comes to horses it is best to keep it fairly simple.
Horses need access to hay, chaff or pasture almost 24/7. They need a lot less protein, carbs, sugar and fancy foods than you would expect – despite the fact that it is fun making up yummy looking feeds for your equine partner!
Find a feed that is low in starch, high in fibre, and preferably not grain based. If it’s a muesli it is probably coated with molasses = high sugar, not ideal for the waistline, nor the equine digestive system.
Slow them down in as many ways possible – see our Slow Feeders the Easy Way for a simple way to make slow feeding hay easy.
You ideally want a simple, plain feed that looks after their stomach and keeps them looking and feeling well. So, what do we choose? Our feed of choice is Thompson and Redwood Claytons pellets.
I know I know, you’re thinking ‘yeh of course that’s what you feed, you’re sponsored by T&R’! It’s true, T&R are our major sponsor and they look after us well but the relationship only exists because we wholeheartedly believe in their products. Plus, they’re locally produced by ingredients that are locally sourced and I think spreading the love locally is really important.
Now, back to the feed, Claytons is a no-grain feed, great for their digestive systems and especially good for horses that suffer from ulcers (around 90% of off the track thoroughbreds and debatably about the same percentage of performance horses in general). It’s low in starch so provides a cool energy, high in fibre (20%) and has about 8% fat so it keeps the weight on even the trickiest of keepers.
When required, we supplement with oil (just whatever is on special at Coles, Woollies or your local supermarket) for those that need extra weight gain, plus of course a good quality electrolyte for when they have worked very hard in the heat. Bectyl paste is my product of choice for mineral replacement following sweat loss – it’s buffered so protects their stomach and I know they have received their full ration rather than just feeding it every day in the feed for the sake of it. You can pick up Bectyl paste for about $20/tube at Bio-John Equine and Pet Superstore and that will give you two doses – if you work your horse really hard you might use that in a couple of days but ideally you don’t want to be hammering them that much in the heat. Try getting up earlier, or avoid working them on the hottest days and schedule your rides accordingly!