What do horses eat? This question is not quite as stupid as it first sounds. Everyone knows horses eat grass right? Well, I assume they do. I guess everyone who has a vague interest in horses do, anyway.
It isn’t so much a question of what horses eat as how much they should eat and how often they should eat. These are far more important questions for anyone who has care of a horse.
Ideally horses fare best when they have free access to year round grazing, especially in a herd.
Horses, as a grazing animal, needs to eat for about 20 hours a day to get the nutrition they need. Grass is a beautifully natural food for horses, who have adapted to survive on it. But the nutritional value of grass is not high. This is why they need to graze for such a long time.
Their whole economy depends on this high intake, an intake that would cause havoc in a carnivorous animal.
Sadly, domestic horses generally don’t have year round access to grass, with or without a herd. Even where they do, seasonal and climatic variations will affect how much grass is available during the cold or hot months.
Most people who have the pleasure of having a horse in their life just don’t have access to large, grassy paddocks, so their horse lives in a stable or in a small yard, with perhaps access to a small grassy paddock periodically.
And this is when problems start to occur. Problems such as colic. A lack of food all day is one of the major causes of colic in horses. It is also the main cause of equine stomach ulcers.
Confining a horse to a small area such as a yard or stable tends to lead to boredom. Especially if there are no other horses close by. Windsucking in horses is a common result, as is crib biting.
But this common problem can be avoided by ensuring your horse has access to food all day. Hay is the best alternative to grass, as the best hay is dried grass.
However, this can lead to another problem. And that is over eating. Horses don’t have to work to eat hay, as they do grass, so can overeat. This can lead to obesity, as well as a depleted bank balance. And a susceptible horse, or pony, can develop laminitis (founder).
So how do you balance all these requirements? How do you allow your horse to eat all day to avoid colic, to avoid stomach ulcers, to avoid boredom, while also avoiding obesity and the associated health problems?
Luckily, this issue has been solved with the advent of various slow feed hay nets. Or greedy steed hay nets, as some call them. These nets can be for a small amount of hay or for the small square bales or even the large round bales. The nets can be placed in containers, which further slow down eating.
This means you can quite happily put a bale of hay in your horse’s yard and he will only be able to pull out small amounts, making him work at it as he would if grazing.
Grass and/or hay all day is far more important to keeping a horse healthy than are supplements or hard feed. You can never replace this need horses have, however good the quality of feed. Anxiety, at the very least, will always result.
The lack of constant food is not the only cause of colic in horses, but it is a major one and should always be considered when caring for a horse.
Always look for the cause of a problem before deciding on the treatment. Sometimes, the solution can be easy. Other times, professional help is needed.
One of the best ways to support good horse health, is through holistic or natural means. Homeopathy offers you the most effective way to achieve this.
The homeopathic horse colic treatment will vary depending on the cause. For example, whether it is from overeating grain, from stress or from an empty stomach. Recovery can be rapid, with no ill effects.
The question of what do horses eat needs to consider a much broader subject.