Quiz 33: Feeding and Managing Horses

Biology

A pasture that is maintained well not only offers fresh air and exercise for the horse, but also it can meet the nutritional demands of the horse. If a pasture is managed in the right manner the feed cost reduces considerably. One should know about the forage that is growing in the pasture. Knowledge about forage in the pasture will help to take certain decisions. The owner should also be aware as to how trampling by horses can destroy the pasture. The forage of horses is mainly of two types - grasses and legumes. The difference between these two forages is that legumes can obtain nitrogen from atmosphere but grasses cannot. Legumes have bacteria in their root nodules. Hence, legumes have more protein than grasses. Different regions grow different forages in their pastures according to their climatic conditions and adaptability of plants. The Northeast, the Midwest, Upper South and the Pacific Northwest are habitats to legumes like alfalfa, bird's foot trefoil, red clover, and white clover. The grasses grown in these regions are brome grass, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass, and timothy. The climate in these regions is ideal for the cool season perennial grasses. The grass in the Northeast is hard enough for the severe winters. Even the Midwest has a cool climate with varying levels of humidity. The Northwest has diverse climatic conditions. The climate is cool and dry and hence ideal for cool season grasses. The Southeast is noted for its high temperatures. It is a warm humid zone with high levels of humidity. The Bermuda grass is the most commonly grown grass in the Southeast. The grass dominates in the entire region. The legumes grown are Alfalfa. Apart from Bermuda grass and Alfalfa, the region is also inhabited by Dallis grass, and Bahia grass. The Southwest is noted for its warm, arid and desert like climate. The water here is also saline and the soil is alkaline. The varying altitudes, intense sunlight and high temperatures make this region only fit to grow Bermuda grass and Alfalfa. The Great Plains and Intermountain West have hot summers. The northern part of Intermountain west is cool and moist. In the southern part of Intermountain West the winter is short and warm. The Great Plains have the prairies and steppes grasslands. The climatic conditions in the Great Plains are diverse. The residents of Great Plains experience extreme weather challenges. Hence, in these regions the forage grown for horses is only Wheat grass and Alfalfa.

Unlike ruminants, the time spent by horses in chewing is less. Their teeth can grind the grains fed to them. The solid food given to an equine is classified into three types- Forage which comprises of hay and grass, Concentrates which consists of grains or pelleted ration and supplements comprising of vitamins and minerals that are prepared. Whole grains which are neither forage and nor supplements are called concentrates. And concentrates should be given only if forage is deficient in certain nutrients and the needs of the horse are not being met. A horse owner should be aware of his horse's nutritional demands for the job the horse does for him. Though the market offers readymade feeds, the horse owner can create ration on his own. He can mix various concentrates by balancing the proteins, vitamins and minerals. However, it is advisable to use formulated ration created by expert professionals. The table below shows the quantity of feed that should be given according to the horse type. img These values can be altered according to the forage quality, horse size and its activity. As a thumb rule, the horses which do heavy work, more concentrates should be fed. Concentrates can be sweet to produce the required number of calories. The table below shows the percentage of concentrates and forages that should be fed at various stages for various types of horses. img We can draw a conclusion from the above table that, the percentage of concentrates is always less as compared to the forage percentage. This balance of concentrates is important for a proper functioning of the digestive system of the horse.

BCS or Body Condition Score is a way to judge the fatness or slimness in a cow. BCS is a scale with markings up to 5. The BCS is known to affect certain aspects of a horse like reproduction, productive health and longevity. Any nutritional deficiency or health related issue or shortcomings in management techniques can be spotted quickly by looking at the horse. The BCS scale start with 1 and goes up to 9 in case of a horse. A horse with BCS 1 means that it is very thin in appearance. A score of BCS 5 is interpreted as moderate condition of the body of the horse. And BCS score of 9 means the horse is extremely fat or obese. The body condition scores from 1 to 9 and their interpretations for the horse is as listed below. img Hence, body condition scoring is a method of assessing the fat deposits in the body with respect to the muscles in the animal.

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