Your Horse's 5 Dietary Requirements For Optimum Health

Your horse's diet has a direct impact on their overall health, and part of the responsibility that comes with owning a horse is ensuring their nutritional needs are met. Poor nutrition can impact your horse's weight, and it can weaken their immune system, which leaves them vulnerable to parasitic infestation and bacterial infections. Additionally, gastrointestinal issues can develop over time, and your horse may experience chronic diarrhoea and stomach discomfort.

Five Dietary Requirements To Heed When Caring For A Horse

To maintain the general health and nutritional status of your horse, heed the following requirements when planning their diet:

  • Provide Enough Clean Water—Each day, your horse needs between 30-50 litres of water to stay hydrated. When a horse becomes dehydrated, they may limit how much they eat as dehydration affects gastrointestinal motility. This means they will feel full when they eat a smaller amount than they typically would, as their digestive system slows down because there's not enough water available to aid their food to move through their digestive tract.
  • Offer Plant-Based Carbohydrates—Your horse's digestive system can find it difficult to process carbohydrates from grain sources, yet carbohydrates are essential for normal growth and development and energy production. Offer your horse a fresh supply of carbohydrates from plant sources, such as hay, each day.
  • Include Adequate Fat—When it comes to fat intake, horses are similar to humans. Too much fat can cause weight gain, but too little fat in their diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D and E, require adequate dietary fat intake to be properly absorbed and utilised. So, ensure your horse has a sensible amount of vegetable or animal fat in their diet. Your vet can provide you with guideline amounts based on your horse's weight, if required.
  • Ensure Their Diet Is Rich In Protein—Your horse can synthesise some amino acids, but others need to be obtained from their diet. Dietary protein contains amino acids that are essential for skin health and tissue repair. A horse with too little protein in their diet can struggle to heal after an injury, and this can leave them susceptible to bacterial infections.
  • Provide A Wide Range Of Minerals—It's easy to overlook mineral requirements and focus on vitamins, but micro and macro minerals, such as calcium, selenium, iron and magnesium, are required for bone and joint health. Additionally, low mineral levels can impact reproductive health and cause developmental delay in young horses.

If you're concerned your horse's diet may not be providing them with the nutrients they need for optimum health, schedule an appointment with your vet. They can check your horse's nutrient levels with a simple blood test, provide detailed dietary advice and recommend suitable brands of horse feed.