Horses have evolved to eat small amounts of food, mainly fibre all day long. As their digestive system was made to work best with a small but steady flow of food, horses should have constant access to forage. A horse can consume approximately 2-2.5% of their bodyweight in dry feed each day. Meaning an average adult horse weighing 500kg could eat up to 12kg of food a day. Horses should be fed little and often throughout the day as this imitates the horse’s natural feeding pattern by ensuring a constant passage of food through the digestive system. Solid feeds are placed into three categories, forages (such as hay or grass), concentrates (grains/ pelleted rations) and supplements (vitamins and minerals). It is recommended by equine nutritionists that 50% or more of your horse’s diet should be fed as forage. If your horse requires more energy due to a higher work load then the amount of concentrates or higher energy forage fed can be increased. With a full range of feeds on the market to suit any horse whether it’s a good doer or a competition horse the right balance of feed is important to maintaining a healthy horse.
Having an accurate knowledge of what your horse weighs is vital for effective administration of drugs i.e. wormers and calculating feed rations. Regularly weighing will help you monitor how your feeding and exercise regime is affecting your horse’s waistline. This can be one using a weigh tape or for a more accurate reading a weigh bridge.
Weight management and feeding tips;
- Restrict grazing by stabling or grazing muzzles
- Feed according to the work done
- Soaking your hay can help reduce the sugar and starch content
- Use small-holed haynets
- Feed low calorie, highly digestible fibre feeds
- Don’t over rug as this will prevent extra calories being used
- Increased exercise
- Weigh feeds and forage
Condition scoring is used to assess whether a horse or pony is at the correct body weight. Below is a body condition scoring chart used to help determine condition.
Laminitis occurs when the laminae (layers of tissue that bond the hoof wall to the pedal bone) become inflamed within the hoof wall. This swelling cause’s severe pain as the hoof wall is unable to expand to accommodate the swelling. In severe cases the laminae fail, allowing the pedal bone to rotate downward and even push through the sole of the foot. Laminitis is more commonly seen in the front feet, horses will often alter their stance by shifting their weight back onto the hind legs to relieve the pressure from the front feet. Others signs to look out for would be a pounding digital pulse, heat in the feet and a reluctance to move. Recent data published by the National Equine Health Survey stated that of the 16,751 horses surveyed, Laminitis affected 6.8% of these horses with a massive 42% being the first time and 58% experiencing a repeat episode. This demonstrates that horses who have suffered from Laminitis before are more prone to it happening again and therefore it is vitally important to try to stop it happening in the first place. The main trigger that usually results in clinical signs of laminitis is often diet related, meaning the horse is consuming an excessive amount of sugar or starch. Laminitis can also be seen in horses suffering from Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Cushing’s Disease.
Caring For Your Horses Hooves
Hooves may look fairly simple, but even the slightest sign of weakness or deformity can have a detrimental effect on the function of the whole body. Hooves act rather like a pair of shoes, protecting the sensitive structure of the foot from the hard ground, sharp objects, dirt, and bacteria. Horses are extremely mobile animals and anything which impairs their ease of movement affects both their physical and psychological well-being. Your horse's hooves are constantly growing at an average of 1/4 to 3/8 inch per month, with an average hoof being 3 to 4 inches in length your horse will potentially grow a new hoof every year.
Hoof care is, therefore, a balance between both preserving and trimming the hoof to keep it in the most comfortable and efficient shape for your horse. Factors which affect the individual strengths and weaknesses of a hoof include conformation, diet, living environment, veterinary conditions and the amount and type of work the horse undertakes. Your horse should be seen by a farrier registered with the Farriers’ Registration Council every four to six weeks depending on your horse’s individual needs. As well as regular attention from a good farrier, and equines feet must also be maintained with a vigilant hoof care routine. A hoof pick should be used every day to remove dirt, stones and other debris from the underside of the foot and the general health of the hoof should be checked. The cavities of the foot are an ideal environment for bacteria and possible infection if not kept clean and aerated. Watch out for any signs of discomfort, discoloration, swelling, heat, moisture, and odor.
Parasitic worms can seriously undermine the health and well-being of horses. Ensuring that your horse is not carrying a heavy burden is all part of a day to day health care plan. Now, with worms becoming resistant to some worming drugs, it is essential that regular worm counts are done. This will help preserve existing wormers as horses will only be wormed when they are needed. Having good pasture maintenance is essential for worm control, this can be done by;
- Avoiding over grazing
- Avoiding over stocking
- Paddock rotation
- Cross graze (ideally with sheep)
We stock a wide variety of horse wormers to suit every horse, just call in and ask to speak to one of our SQP’s on the right treatment for your horse.
It is good practice to regularly weight check your horse so it is given the correct dosage of wormer. The most accurate way is a weigh bridge with the closest one being at Boston Spa, however, this is not always feasible and a weight tape can be used. We supply weigh tapes so ask us when buying your wormer.
*In house worm counts now available ask for more details!*
Caring For Your Horses Teeth
Good dental care is essential to your horse’s well-being, to prevent disease and to ensure they are comfortable when they are ridden. Prevention is always better than cure, so ensure that your horse has regular dental checks from a vet or suitably qualified equine dental technician at least once a year/. Monitoring your horse for signs of any dental discomfort is crucial being mindful that horses will generally alter their eating pattern and suffer in silence. Designed to chew rough fiber for over 18 hours a day, a horse’s teeth are very hard wearing. This diet, together with the horse’s chewing action, wears his teeth down at a rate of approximately 2-3 mm per year. To compensate for this wear a horse’s teeth continue to erupt through the gums into the mouth over time until he reaches an age when there is simply nothing more left to erupt. When this occurs he simply loses his teeth. When this happens it can be very hard to get the right amount of fiber into your horse. Generally, a dental exam will consist of a routine rasping to remove any sharp edges on the cheek teeth. In most cases, this is done with a variety of hand held rasps. If there are large overgrowths or the mouth requires more advanced treatment, motorized equipment and/or more advanced tools may be used. Sometimes they may suggest that your horse is sedated, this can be routine and nothing to worry about.
Horses now can be either stabled or left out at night depending on your personal preference. If stabled though horse bedding is not a straightforward choice. It can depend on a number of factors including cost, transport, storage, disposal and the individual. In general, the most common types of bedding used are straw and shavings but other types are available such as rubber matting, paper, and hemp.
Things to consider when choosing a type of bedding;
Dust and Spores
Airborne dust and spores from bedding are recognized as one of the major causes of respiratory problems among stabled horses.
Horses moving from a wet environment outside onto dry or highly absorbent bedding run a high risk of hoof damage. Lack of secure, resilient support, particularly under the frog, can lead to hoof and musculoskeletal problems.
Hygiene in the stable is critical to prevent infection and disease. Bedding quality and proper management are critical to maintaining effective hygienic conditions.
Lack of adequate bedding will make a horse more susceptible to injury when lying down or rolling in the stable.
Poor bedding and bedding management expose horses to greater contact with ammonia, which can damage the respiratory system and attack the structure of the hoof.
Horses need an average of approximately 60 minutes of REM sleep every 24 hours. They need to lie down to achieve this. Without a satisfactory bed horses are less likely to lie down and rest properly.
Maintenance of stables and a good mucking out routine is paramount to ensure your horse has a healthy environment to live in.
Top tips to ensure your horse has a clean and healthy stable environment;
- Clear the area. Take your horse out of the stall and removes any objects such as feed and water buckets.
- Keep a cleaning kit to hand. Including a wheelbarrow, shavings or manure fork and a yard broom.
- Clear all the soiled bedding. Remove manure and wet bedding thoroughly.
- Dump the waste product in the assigned area, ensuring it is well away from the stable. Muck heaps can attract flies and other parasites which can provide a nuisance factor as well as spreading disease among horses.
- Once all waste has been removed spread the leftover bedding in the stable.
- Add fresh bedding to replace the amount removed. Buff the bedding up with a fork to maximise comfort and warmth.
- Have a routine complete clean out when once a week or a fortnight, where the stable is completely stripped out. Use a disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease. Let the stable dry out completely before re-bedding.
- Clean up outside the stable. Any dirty bedding will carry disease so make sure all waste is tidied away and dumped on the manure heap.
- Replace the feeding equipment and toys that were removed to enable an effective clean then return the horse into a better, healthier and cleaner living environment.