Calories Vs Volume
How to Feed Your Horse’s Digestive System
Most all horse owners are experts at feeding the outside of their horses. What I mean is the weight is right and their coat is shiny they look healthy but what about the inside? If a horse’s behavior and well being were based on what they look like on the outside you and your horse would both be a lot happier. Well this is simply not the case your horse does not react according to his appearance he only reacts to the way he feels on the inside. So let’s talk about the inside. If you have read the 15 reasons for grazing that I wrote then you will be interested the following.
The following may vary depending on each horse’s individual metabolism. Grass hay depending on the variety and when it was cut has between 825 and 900 calories and alfalfa about 900 to 950 calories per lb. A 1000 lb. horse requires about 15,000 calories daily at rest, 25,000 calories daily at light work and 33,000 calories daily heavily worked. That’s about 18 lbs. of (850 calorie) grass hay daily to maintain him at rest with a healthy appearance and supply the nutrition he requires.
Now the inside, that same 1000 lb. horse requires up to 30 lbs. more or less of dry forage daily to maintain a healthy digestive system and attitude.
Now how do we get to 30 lbs. without adding calories? The same way farmers have done it for over 100 years since they began increasing the calories in the hay they grow to fatten their cattle. The hay contained too many calories to let horses free feed without becoming obese when they were not being worked. The answer is to blend straw (or chaff) into the hay. A constant fiber source is needed to maintain the “good” bacteria in the horses hind gut which break down plant fibers and provide energy for the horse. Straw has very little sugar or nutritional value and used as a filler keeps the digestive bacteria working around the clock and healthy. Straw is usually available in three varieties: oat, barley and wheat. Oat is most palatable, barley is less palatable and wheat is the least palatable.
Here’s the easy part, you are most likely feeding enough calories with your current feeding regiment to maintain your horse’s daily calorie requirements so just blend enough straw with each feeding so they are not hungry at the next feeding. By not hungry I mean they don’t take hay from your hands as you are feeding or act aggressive towards their hay. Not only does the straw work as filler but it also dilutes the sugar intake and taste (like letting the ice melt in a glass of soda) which encourages your horse to eat more slowly. You can add or subtract straw to increase or decrease the calories according to how active your horse is. Preferably feed lowest calorie grass hay available which will require less straw if any to be blended for the inactive horse. Testing hay for mineral content if possible because most farm soils have mineral deficiencies. A quality equine mineral supplement is usually necessary.
Horses require about the same amount of forage each hour around the clock. Divide the pounds of blended forage you are going to feed by 24 (hours in a day) then multiply by the amount of hours between each feeding then feed the appropriate amount at each feeding. (Ex: feeding 7am and 5pm =10 x the hourly amount in the morning and 14 x the hourly amount in the evening).
Blended hay works great when combined with the Porta-Grazer™ feeding system not allowing the horse to pick through the hay.
Putting my pony on a “diet” was hopeless–He started eating dirt and I figured next was sand colic. And he didnt lose an ounce! He now has Teff hay in front of his darling face 24/7 and has lost 50lbs! No more weighing and rationing… He’s done it all on his own! Yes it took some time but its miraculous. I didnt believe Walt when he promised it would work… but this man brought us something that I will never be without in my barn! Porta-Grazers are the bomb! —-Sherry Ward
My “easy keeper” horses (a haflinger and a fresian/TB) have actually LOST weight now that I am using the Porta-Grazers. They look fabulous! Even my mini is looking less like a tick. And my big British warmblood looks fab, neither fat nor thin. LOVE these things. — Betsy Schoettlin