Horses are herbivores and they have a very strict dietary needs since they have a different digestive tract than other animals. Their long digestive system requires them to eat only high-fiber fodder; in small quantities over a period of time. And they actually spend almost all their time eating!
Pasture Grass and Tender Plants
Imagine eating your favorite cheeseburger and fries.. this is what pasture grass is for horses! Pasture grass and tender plants are the natural diet of horses and a good pasture contains most of the nutrients a healthy horse needs. They also have silica which is good for the horse’s teeth. Wild horses can live on scattered rations lesser than the ideal pasture diet and that is why their healthy rather than modern horses. Pasture grass isn’t the problem, the type of horses and their lack of exercise are.
It is important to limit the amount of pasture grass for easy keeping horses, if you introduce lush pasture immediately, there is a tendency that it can cause digestive problems. For hard keeping horses, good pasture provides the best nutrition.
Concentrates are mixtures of ingredients such as grains, molasses, bran, flax seed, vitamins and minerals. Commercial mixtures may compose a number of ingredients or mix with concentrates to your liking (only if you have too many horses to feed). You can makeup lacking nutrients by giving grain concentrates since they provide a quick source of energy.
The traditional grain fed to horses are oats. You may also feed your horses small amounts of corn but be careful not to feed them with wheat since it’s bad for them. Grains that are processed and man-made are not natural food for horses. Horses that eats a large amount of grain may develop colic or founder.
You can add salt and minerals supplements to concentrate mixes or may be offered separately. Salt block or loose salt may mix with minerals. Some people prefer free choice minerals, or mixed into the horse’s grain or concentrates. In addition, there are also people who prefer feeding their horses salt in the summer than in the winter.
There are certainly a time of the year where we can’t give our horses pasture grass, and it’s winter. The next best choice is to feed them hay, though finding good ones can be difficult. It is recommended to test hay first in case it lacks vitamins and minerals so, it can easily be compensated with concentrates. Some horses can have problems with hay the same way pasture grass can be. Easy keeping horses may need to be restricted from accessing bale feeder the whole day.
Additional: It is not recommended to feed horses with rice bran and wheat since they can cause mineral imbalances. Do not even try throwing lawn clippings or garden waste over the fence since they contain plants toxic to horses.