Horse Feeding Tips

A horse’s nutritional requirements and his digestive system have not changed since the time he was first domesticated thousands of years ago. However, due to a lack of knowledge, convenience considerations and an over-zealous adoption of the scientific claims of the feed industry, the way we feed a horse has changed dramatically. Often, these methods contradict what natural horsemanship tells us about feeding and result in health problems for the horse and management problems for owner.

Certain principles of natural horsemanship can be applied to choosing a proper feeding program for the horse. Just as we studied aspects of horse physiology and psychology when approaching training techniques, it is beneficial to think in these terms when we decide how to feed our horses. This will tell us both what to feed and how to feed.

It doesn’t take an expert in natural horsemanship or equine nutrition to understand that feeding flakes of alfalfa and grain supplements twice a day to a horse in a stall is not what Mother Nature intended. Indeed, that approach completely ignores a few basic principles that every horse owner should know about their four-legged charges.

A horse’s digestive system is designed to obtain the maximum nutritional benefit from a diet of high-fiber and low-energy grasses. The foundation of a healthy, natural diet for a modern, domesticated horse is grass and grass hay. A horse in his natural environment will spend many hours a day grazing. Most experts say that a horse needs to consume at least 1.5 – 2 lb. of good quality hay and grain for every 100 lbs of body weight. Much will depend upon the metabolism of the horse. Horses that are heavily worked, pregnant and lactating mares will consume up to 3 lbs of dry matter for every 100 lbs. of body weight.

Grass hay is much preferable to alfalfa for the bulk for the horse’s diet for several reasons. Alfalfa is a very rich or “hot” feed for the horse. It contains approximately 50% more protein and energy per pound than grass hay. Its phosphorous to calcium ratio is also too high for a horse’s requirements. When fed with grain, as alfalfa often is, numerous digestive problems including colic may result. Alfalfa may be fed but only in small quantities almost as a supplement, not as the predominant feed component.

Not all hay is the same. The nutritional content of hay depends not only on the variety of grass grown, but also on the soil and amount and type of fertilizer used. Hay quality also can vary and should be examined prior to purchasing. Good hay exhibits the following qualities:

1. Should be leafy as opposed to containing too many stems. Most of hay’s protein is contained in the leaves.

2. Good-quality hay should exhibit a light green color. If it is too yellow or brown, it might have been harvested too late and may not contain proper nutrients.

3. The hay should smell fresh and sweet. Hay that smells moldy or musty should be avoided. Feeding moldy hay can result in colic.

4. Check for weeds and other non-hay matter. Good horse hay should contain a bare minimum of weeds, sticks and debris.

Unfortunately, hay comes without supermarket labels specifying nutritional content, but often a reputable hay supplier will have a laboratory analysis available for a particular cutting of hay he is selling. Parameters to look for include:

1. Moisture: usually averages around 10%. Higher than 13% may result in palatability problems and even mold proliferation.

2. Crude protein: Legume hay will run 20% or more. High quality grass hay might run as high as 12-15%. A minimum should be at least 8%.

3. Digestible energy (DE): This is an estimate of the amount of energy available to the horse from the hay. This figure will vary depending upon the stage of growth at which the grass was cut and harvested. Young grass will have a higher DE. As the crop matures, DE decreases as the lignin content increases. A DE reading of less than 1.65 Mcal/kilogram indicates a high level of indigestibility and should not be fed to horses. This could cause impaction colic.

4. Acid detergent fibre (ADF: Indicates the digestibility of fiber in the hay. ADF levels above 45% indicate poor nutritional levels, while values less than 31% indicate excellent quality hay.

When horses ran wild, their food supply consisted of different kinds of grasses grown in one pasture or field. Today we have lost that natural variety. An improved pasture is more than likely to contain just one variety of hay grass. Feeding just one type of hay can limit the nutritional value of the horse’s ration, especially trace minerals. Several different kinds of hay, ideally, should be fed. This will not only provide a more balanced diet but will also vary taste and texture characteristics of the feed as well.

A horse will also nibble eagerly on all kinds of vegetable matter. A good idea is to provide your horse with tree branches with leaves to chew on. He will not only be able to derive needed nutrients but will use his teeth and wear them down naturally. A horse’s teeth are continually growing, and because of domestication and modern feeding techniques, usually need to be rasped down once a year. In the wild the horse is apt to feed in such a way that the growth of his teeth is naturally kept under control.

In addition to being perfectly suited to extracting maximum nutritional value from grasses, a horse’s digestive system has other requirements which are often ignored by owners. The relatively small size of the stomach limits the amount of feed that can be safely consumed at one time. A horse is unable to vomit or belch. Eating a large volume of hay and grain concentrate twice a day, as most horses do, can be unhealthy and even dangerous. A horse should eat small amounts, many times a day.

One of the unique features of the horse’s digestive system is that even though he has but one stomach compartment, as opposed to ruminants like cows, there is a large microbial population in the cecum and colon. These microbes have the ability to break down and utilize the nutrients contained in forage. The peculiar shape of the colon which bends back upon itself numerous times reduces the rate at which digested food is able to pass. This allows more efficient utilization of roughages in the horse’s feed, but also can cause digestive problems when the horse is not fed correctly.

If you observe a horse eating in a barn situation, you can readily see that he prefers to eat off the ground. Most feeders require a horse to eat with their necks extended and their heads raised. This is an unnatural position for a horse to eat. Grass particles and debris fall back into his face and eyes. The horse cannot properly chew his food, and respiratory problems can result when the horse constantly inhales dust from the hay. It’s better to place hay on the ground in small amounts and in different places.

A diet of high-quality grass and hay should provide all the energy and protein needs non-working horses require. However, if a horse is in training, shows in performance classes or is ridden frequently, you might want to supplement with grain. Although this might be considered a departure from a purely natural approach to feeding, riding and working a horse is a complete departure from what nature intended as well.

In his natural environment as a wild, prey animal, a horse consumed very little grain. His very limited grain consumption took place in the fall from natural grasses that had gone to seed. This probably served to put on extra weight before winter. However, our energy demands on a horse have changed nutritional demands on him as well.

If a horse needs more energy, fat and protein in his diet than he is receiving from a grass and hay-based diet, there are several ways you can get him that additional nutrition. It’s a good idea to avoid feeding the quantity of sugar and molasses present in many commercial sweet feeds. Just as in humans, the ingestion of large amounts of sugar can play havoc with the horse’s insulin-regulating mechanism. Compounded grain products may also contain other undesirable ingredients such as fish and animal by-products.

You can get your horse the extra energy he needs through supplementing with rice and wheat bran or oats and barley. Limit the horse’s intake of prepared rations of grain except for pregnant and lactating mares and young foals. We want to feed naturally but we don’t want to reject out of hand advances in feed science. Educate yourself and choose supplements based on your horse’s true needs. Do not overfeed grain, however.

Natural supplements that are useful to include in a horse’s daily ration include flaxseed. Flaxseed is a good source for important Omega-3 fatty acids that are so important in human diets too. Omega-3 fatty acids can play a role in alleviating chronic inflammation and strengthen the immune system. They can improve the condition of a horse’s coat and hooves.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) supplements is a lesser-known source of trace minerals, internal and external parasite control, improved feed utilization and fly control. DE is a desiccant and can be used as a feed supplement or can be spread around stalls and the barn and will kill 75% of flies, fleas and mites that come into contact with it. Horse owners who use DE religiously claim that feeding DE to their foals and grown horses eliminates the need for chemical worming.

Horses themselves can be a judge of what trace minerals they need to consume. Have you ever seen a horse digging in the ground and begin to lick some special rock they’ve found? He seems to know instinctively what minerals he is lacking and where he can get them. This probably pertains more to a wild and varied environment than to a controlled and limited pasture environment. For that reason, it is a good idea to provide a free-choice salt and trace mineral product especially formulated for horses.

When horses are first offered this feeding option, they will initially consume a considerable amount but begin self-regulating very quickly. A supply of salt is essential to a horse’s health and well-being. In the wintertime salt should be manually added to a horse’s feed in order to ensure that he drinks the proper amount of water. Be sure to make available to the horse an unlimited supply of fresh, clean water.

Be Responsible – Pet Ownership & Pet Care Tips For Cats and Dogs

Responsible pet ownership requires a lot of dependability, knowledge, and consideration; unfortunately, some new pet owners take this responsibility very lightly.

So, before you take home your new dog or cat, consider the following pet care tips to ensure that you are providing your new friend with the right amount of care and just the right amount of love! Your new companion is relying on you to provide it.

Dogs

Whether your new pet is just a puppy or an adult dog, you have a challenge ahead of you to practice responsible pet ownership and awareness. Your home is new territory, and you are now your pet’s primary caregiver. Both kindness and a firm yet reassuring approach to your new dog will go a long way. Ensure that he knows you’re ready to give him the love he deserves by creating a canine-friendly atmosphere and integrating these pet care tips into his routine.

  • Crate training and housebreaking: Two very important stages in your dog’s life. Crate training, should you choose this method, gives your pet a quiet, safe place to retreat to at bedtime or whenever you leave the house. If you want to prevent chewing or scratching, crate training might be necessary in the beginning. Housebreaking is just a matter of routine – think of a word you want your dog to associate with going to the bathroom outside and use it repeatedly. Take your dog outside multiple times, normally after meals or water breaks, and he’ll soon make the connection.
  • Flea and tick prevention: Without preventative measures and an ounce of responsible pet ownership, your home could become infested or your dog could become extremely ill. Most vets can provide you with products that eliminate fleas and ticks on your dog. Available orally or in a liquid form placed on the back just once a month, your dog will be able to repel fleas, ticks, and parasites regularly.
  • Shots and preventative vaccines: Dogs suffer from many terrible diseases that are often fatal if not treated or prevented at the outset. Vaccination is one of the most important pet care tips that can be provided – and one that should be heeded. Rabies, distemper, heartworms, and parvovirus are some of the worst viruses that can afflict your dog – your vet will discuss which shots your pet receives at each yearly check-up to prevent these agonizing diseases.
  • Spaying or neutering: Similar to yearly vaccinations, highlighting the need for spaying or neutering play into vital pet care tips. Gone unmonitored, two dogs can produce over 4,000 offspring in seven years. Sadly, a large number of these dogs will be euthanized or left to fend for themselves on the street. Spaying or neutering, a major part of responsible pet ownership, ensures your pet will be healthier in the long run, and you will have prevented the birth of more unwanted puppies.
  • Obedience training: Your dog desires structure. Teaching him the basic commands yourself or enrolling him in an obedience or training course gives him a level of organization in his life. Furthermore, teaching him certain commands also ensures that he will be a well-behaved, functioning member of your family within your home. Purchase a book offering pet behavior and pet care tips, such as My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson or Dog Talk by John Ross. These two books will give you a better idea of responsible pet ownership and how to approach certain situations with your new dog.

Cats

Unlike dogs, cats are much more independent, needing perhaps less of your attention. Cats, however, rely on you for the same necessities that a dog expects. If problematic behaviors pop up, contact your local animal shelter or animal welfare organization for more pet care tips. Most likely, literature on both dog and cat care will be provided upon request.

In any case, to help your cat be a happier, better-behaved feline, consider the following more important pet care tips:

  • A clean litter box: If your cat lives inside, you will need to clean and/or empty his litter box at least twice a day. Every week or so, you’ll also need to dump the litter out entirely and wash his box with hot, soapy water to reduce the spread of bacterial growth. This task can be easy to forget, but cats are clean animals. For a cat, this is one of the more important pet care tips – ensuring his area is always clean. The location of his box is important – keep it out of high-traffic areas and away from his food. To help him learn to use his litter box, show him where it is four to five times a day and encourage him to use it, praising him when he uses it or even just digs.
  • Flea and tick prevention: Fleas and ticks can make your new pet very sick and can introduce parasites into the bloodstream. Practice responsible pet ownership! Prevent this from occurring by purchasing flea and tick preventative products from your vet. Flea powder and a quick sweep of the vacuum through your house is also an excellent guard against fleas or ticks. However, if you do opt to buy products online or at the store, be cautious and practice responsible pet ownership by checking the labels and warnings if any – some preventative measures are harmful to cats.
  • Spaying or neutering: As important for cats as it is for dogs! Responsible pet ownership dictates that you have your cat spayed or neutered when s/he is between six and eight weeks old if possible. Not only will you help prevent pet “overpopulation,” but you will reduce the potential for other cancers and diseases that may occur if your cat is not surgically altered.
  • Shots and preventative vaccines: Cats are susceptible to a variety of fatal and painful diseases. Without vaccinations and a nod to responsible pet ownership, they will likely die or have medical issues throughout their lives. Much like the recommendation for dogs, vaccination for cats is one of the most important pet care tips. Rabies, FeLV (Feline Leukemia), FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), and distemper are some of the worst – however, with a regular check-up and shots from your vet and just a bit of responsible pet ownership, you have nothing to worry about!

Be a Knowledgeable Pet Owner

You now have a big responsibility on your hands. Your new cat or dog ultimately relies on you to provide him with the necessities of life, and it is your job as a responsible, knowledgeable pet owner to ensure that he has a happy, healthy life by incorporating a routine into his life and following the pet care tips that have been outlined above.

Do your research and talk to other pet owners to get other helpful pet care tips! Your pet has basic needs that must be fulfilled by you. Of course, he needs a ready supply of cool drinking water, healthy dog or cat food, shade or shelter, and grooming on a regular basis, but he also expects you to create a loving home and warm environment and to keep him healthy and happy.

With just a little awareness of what to expect coupled with responsible pet ownership, you’ll be ready to give your new companion lots of love and a happy home!

Pet Care Products And How To Buy Them

Your dog means everything to you and your family. Your kids are unable to recall or imagine life without him. If something were to happen to him the entire family would be affected. Unfortunately, he is growing older and eventually, of course, something will happen to him. Meanwhile though you need to ensure that he is as content and healthy as possible. He is no longer the sweet lively puppy you brought home when the kids were still toddlers. His coat has lost some of its shine and he is scratching a great deal. The veterinarian says it’s nothing to worry about and recommended a dog shampoo but it has not cleared it up entirely. You’ve looked online for some other itchy dog/skin relief shampoos and were stunned by the choices available.

I do not mind spending a little more on pet care products for my dog but I do not want to get ripped off.

We certainly do love our dogs; and we have lots of them. It’s approximated that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 million dogs in the United States and that dog care, in the US alone, is a multibillion dollar a year industry. Needless to say, anywhere there’s that much money to be made you will find individuals and businesses lined up for their piece of the pie. Some will be legitimate and others not.

So how can I recognize if pet care products are legit or just ‘snake oil’?

The best thing to do is get recommendations from actual people you trust whether it’s other dog owners you know, your local groomer or pet store owner (if you have a good rapport with them) or your veterinarian. Anyone company can make an unsubstantiated claim but if you can’t seem to find anyone else who can validate those claims then conceivably they are suspect.

I have been considering some of these supposed miracle formulations and honestly I wonder if some of these products are even safe.

If a dog product is advertised as medicated it must be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration which simply means that it needs to contain what it claims to contain. Whereas if it is just a regular shampoo it doesn’t get the same kind of scrutiny as a human shampoo would get. What you sometimes find with unscrupulous dog product companies are nothing more than repackaging of human shampoos which is not at all appropriate – a dog’s skin is more alkaline than humans and cannot replenish oils the same way.

So what should I look for?

If you are determined to test new dog grooming supplies here are a few things you can look for before handing over your hard-earned cash

– money back satisfaction guarantees

– businesses that are forthcoming when it comes to all the ingredients their products contain

– products that come recommended by individuals you know and trust

– businesses that have active social media sites like Facebook; if you cannot find people you know you might at least be able to talk to other people who have used the products

In the end any new product you introduce into your dog’s life needs to be introduced with caution. Closely monitor results for any troubling reactions and if there is anything that concerns you then discontinue use at least until you can get it checked out with your vet.