The Horse's Basic Needs

The horse is a wonderful animal, strong yet sensitive, with a unique digestive system that requires knowledge and care.

In the wild, horses graze for nearly 18 hours a day; thus, their digestive system is adapted to this. The stomach is small, holding only about 10 litres. The food then passes through the small intestine in about one hour before reaching the large intestine where it spends several days. Here, microorganisms work to digest fibre and extract nutrients, with 65-70% of the energy the horse utilises coming from this process. The balance in the gut flora is sensitive to disturbances, and any changes to the diet should therefore be made gradually over 1-2 weeks. This structure gives the horse a limited ability to use starch, sugar, and fat as energy sources.

A suitable rule is to feed the horse at least 1-1.5 kg of dry matter forage/100 kg horse. Forage includes, for example, hay, haylage, silage, pasture, alfalfa, and straw. This is necessary for the work of the microorganisms but also for the horse's chewing needs and well-being. We recommend a forage analysis that provides information on the content of essential nutrients. The dry matter content is important in wet forages to calculate the correct amount to feed. In some cases, a hygienic analysis may also be appropriate.

If additional nutrition is needed, besides forage, some supplementary feed (e.g., oats, beet pulp, factory-manufactured pellets, or muesli, etc.) is added in suitable amounts. The next step is to supplement with minerals and vitamins for a balanced diet. There are good programs, such as PC-Horse, which help calculate the amounts based on the needs. Divide the feed into several meals per day and, of course, provide the horse with free access to clean water. The needs of the horse vary greatly depending on whether and work load, whether it is growing, pregnant, or lactating. Get into the habit of periodically estimating the horse's weight using, for example, a weight measuring tape. Also assess the horse's condition to ensure that the diet provides the right amount of energy and nutrients.

Even when the diet is balanced, there may still be substances the horse needs for muscles, joints, temperament, etc., and there is a wide range of supplements that meet these needs.

For external needs, liniments, clays, and ointments of various kinds can be useful, both for preventative and caring needs. It can be beneficial to add essential substances both through supplements and care products for optimal effect, e.g., in the care of muscles, joints, and tendons, as well as conditions like itching and mud fever.

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