Feed Time: Roughage, Grain and Stable Licks
When I first bought Henry, I have to admit I wasn't fully prepared. The lure of finally owning my own beautiful horse drew me in. I certainly didn't possess all the knowledge I'd needed to provide a high level of horse care. Fortunately, I have lots of friends who are also experienced equestrians. They were all happy to help me learn how to best care for Henry. I learnt that one of the most important elements of horse care is feeding. It turns out that there were a number of rules to follow to ensure that my horse received the nutrition that he required, from the right amount of roughage to tasty treats like stable licks.
Provide Plenty of Roughage
Something I didn't know before I began my education in horse nutrition is that roughage should provide the main bulk of a horse's calories. I always assumed that they needed grain. In actual fact good-quality hay or pasture is quite sufficient for horses like Henry. Horses' digestive systems are designed to process roughage. They get the nutrition they need from the grassy stalks. I'm reliably told that a horse should eat as much 1 to 2 percent of his body weight in roughage each day.
I was slightly concerned that because Henry spends much of his time in his stall, he wouldn't be doing much grazing. However, his natural feeding pattern can be easily replicated by keeping hay in front of him for much of the day. He tends to nibble at it for a while, have a snooze, and then come back to it.
Measure Feed Accurately
My friends drilled into me how important it is measure Henry's feed accurately. I started off measuring it by weight using a kitchen scale. Once I figured out how much his usual ration weighed, I would measure that portion at feeding time using an old coffee can. Henry is an average thousand-pound (slightly over) horse. He relies on hay for his forage, and he generally eats about 15 pounds of it every day.
Buying Stable Licks
A stable lick is a unique maintenance feed which is packaged rather conveniently in a handy bucket. It's an economic alternative to conventional supplementary feed and ideal for stabled horses like Henry as it gives him something else to investigate. He finds it very palatable and so it serves as great treat that he can enjoy in the paddock (fortunately it is weatherproof). What's more, because it's full of extra vitamins and minerals. I know that in giving it to Henry, it is helping to maintain his body condition throughout the year. Stable lick is accessible at all times, and so it offers a more natural approach to feeding. I buy Dengie stable lick 12.5kgs () and this tends to last him about two weeks.
There are lots of different stable licks flavours available, such as fruit and veg flavoured to original mineral licks that smell like molasses. Handy stable holders are available for these licks so they can be housed on stable doors or walls away from bedding and dust. Some stable licks can also be used as part of stable toys. These are usually hung up to provide your horse with a challenging way to get get his reward.
There's a lot to learn when it comes to feeding a horse. If you are ever in doubt as to the best diet for your horse consult an equine nutritionist or your vet for more advise. I like to think I am well on the way to mastering this particular aspect of horse care. There are no complaints from Henry anyway (who especially loves his stable licks) and that's the main thing!