News from the Farm

by | June 27, 2007 12:00 am

Myths of horse feeding

Mark Crosby

Last week I found a copy of a brochure written by Dr. Gary Heusner, Georgia Extension Service’s Equine Specialist. The title of the publication was Common Questions and Answers About Horses. This publication, which is available at the Emanuel County Extension Office, answers many of the common questions that horse owners have. This publication also helps put to rest some of common misconceptions about horses and horse management.

One section of this publication is titled Myths of Feeding Horses. The following are myths pertaining to the feeding of horses. According to Dr. Heusner, these myths still exist despite extensive research that disproves this “common” knowledge.

Myth Number 1 – All horses require some grain and sweet feed. WRONG! Horses are non-ruminant herbivores, which means that they require a minimum amount of roughage or forage in their diets to keep their gastrointestinal system functioning properly. Some classes of horses can be maintained with only quality pasture grasses and hay. All feeding programs should be based on the activity of the horse and the quality of the forage that the horse is consuming hay or grass should only be supplemented when the horse cannot maintain the weight or performance that you desire.

Myth Number 2 – Don’t water your horse immediately after a meal. WRONG! Watering a horse after a meal does not make a difference as to the nutritional content of the feed. Nutrients are removed from the feed shortly after being consumed and watering is not going to stop the process. Dr. Heusner states “Observe horses that have access to water 24 hours a day, most will water after a meal not before an anticipated meal.”

Myth Number 3 – Oats must be crimped or rolled. WRONG! Studies have shown little or no improvement in the digestibility of oats when they are processed and fed to horses with normal teeth. However, barley, corn, wheat, and milo should be cracked crimped or rolled before feeding to horses.

Myth Number 4 – A mature horse’s protein requirement increases as he is ridden more and works harder – WRONG! Many people feel that as you ride a horse more per day or per week that the horse’s protein requirement will increase. This is simply not true. The protein requirements as a percentage of the total diet may increase slightly, but energy is our main concern. When a horse is being worked more or ridden more, increase the energy intake by feeding more of the current crude protein level feed or buy a feed that has the same protein level and lower fiber content with a higher fat content.

Myth Number 5 – My hay is green so it must be good quality hay. WRONG! The most important criterion for good quality hay is that it was cut at the right stage of growth. To a certain extent earlier growth hay should be greener than later cut hay. However, color should not be a major factor when visibly appraising the quality of hay. Good quality hay should be free from mold, dust and weeds, and should be very leafy. Keep in mind that the only way to know if the nutritional value is actually high is from a lab analysis.

These are just a few of the myths that are commonly passed around about horses. I hope this article has helped to clear up a few of them. For more information on horses or other topics of interest, call Mark Crosby at 237-1226, or stop by the Emanuel County Extension Office on Anderson Street.—Mark Crosby is director of Emanuel County Extension Office.

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