Need for feed: How to get the ration right for specific equine needs
The age-old saying is “quality over quantity.” But how does this translate to overall health and wellness for proper animal nutrition? Stephane Jothy, head of Global Horse Marketing for ADM Animal Nutrition, looks at four key elements of horse feeding.
We all know that quality feed and a balanced diet are critical for an animal to grow and perform at its full potential. However, it’s equally important to quantify and adjust rations according to the animal’s weight and when considering its performance level or physiological stage. Horses, in particular, have very specific nutritional needs, whether it be for a broodmare, stallion, foal, show or performance horse.
So, how do we adapt to these unique needs? Here are the key elements horse breeders and owners should think about when considering how to feed their horses.
- Give your horse a feed ration adapted to its weight
Ration instructions on horse feed labels have been pre-calculated for horses that weigh on average 500kg (250kg for ponies and dividing the quantities indicated by two). If you don’t know the weight of your horse and you don’t have a scale at the stable, you can estimate the weight of your horse within a small margin of error with two measurements: the height at the withers and the thoracic perimeter. Estimating your horse’s weight is very important to determine the correct ration and administer the appropriate amount of feed. Royal Horse has a convenient calculator available online, to help determine your horse’s weight.
- Choose the right feed for the life stage of your horse
For many species, proper nutrition is essential from an early life stage. It’s no different for foals. In fact, the period between birth and the first year of age in foals is vital for musculoskeletal development because they will have reached 80% of their adult size. During this period the foals must receive a diet specially designed for breeding and more particularly supplemented with certain amino acids, which are called “limiting”. A diet based exclusively on grass and hay will not be sufficient to cover the nutritional needs of the future athlete horse, and they will be more likely to develop joint and tendon problems.
- Give your horse an appropriate ration for its future
For your horse to express its full genetic potential, the feed must be thought out and adapted to what it will become. To cover all needs, feed formulation must take into account many criteria such as energy level, minerals and vitamins, protein intake, etc. For example, at the same age, a future racehorse foal which must have a more mature skeleton and muscle mass because it is younger in training, will not be fed in the same way as a sport horse which will have more time to develop because it’s put to work later.
- Give your horse rations adapted to its workload
Feed quality and quantity must be adapted to the average workload of your horse, without any random fluctuation likely to disturb the delicate balance of the intestinal flora. Maintaining the equilibrium of the gut microbiome is essential to an animal’s overall well-being, as the gut helps ensure critical nutrient absorption that stimulates health and growth performance. Stable feed rations support balanced intestinal flora. Many horse feed formulators offer a wide range of products classified by energy level and by type of effort (long or short) according to the practiced discipline.
Like all animals, horses and ponies have specific wellness and nutritional needs. High-quality feed rations that are customized to the nutritional requirements of horses at all life stages and performance levels help ensure their overall well-being.
As the head of ADM’s global horse brand, Royal Horse, Stephane Jothy brings more than 30 years of experience to the equine nutrition industry. Jothy holds a master’s degree in livestock production and feed and has recently focused his efforts on the launch of nutritional solutions for equine well-being and performance, including equine gastric ulcer syndrome, regrowth of the horn and solutions for the cardiac and muscular function of horses subjected to intense efforts.