Sunday, 3 February 2013

Guest Post; The Dietary Requirements of a Horse

Horses with their unique and lengthy digestive tracts are known as non-ruminant, hindgut herbivores – meaning that like humans, they only have one stomach. Horses have to digest large amounts of cellulose from plant fibre – much more than humans – so they have an organ called a cecum that’s part of the large intestine, which has the function of aiding digestion with microbes.

The microbes ferment in the hindgut of the horse and produce various fatty acids. These fatty acids are an important source of nutrients for the horse.

Horses cannot be sick, other than to regurgitate food from the oesophagus. They also have a very complex large intestine. Colic, as you may very well know, is an illness that startlingly can kill your horse. This means that getting your horse’s diet correct is all the more important.

What should my horse eat?All the goodness a horse requires should come from its feed. Assuming your horse is not overweight or underweight, a good diet will consist of good pasture grass and hay, which they can quite happily exist on.

Hay will fall into two categories: legumes and grasses. Legumes will provide the horse with more nutrients than the grasses, whereas the grasses will provide the horse with more of its fibre dietary needs.

Depending upon a horse’s workload, it may be beneficial to give the horse grain for a little extra protein and energy. A horse that grazes most of the day and is ridden only occasionally will probably not need grain, but a horse that is very active and athletic certainly will benefit from a grain supplement.

Your equine friend should also have access to a salt lick, which will provide your horse with its essential electrolytes and other trace elements.

Don’t forget, your animal needs a fresh supply of safe drinking water too.

Benefits of salt licksSalt is quite a difficult substance to come by naturally when a horse is domesticated. A horse needs the salt for the same reasons we do; it helps to maintain electrolyte levels, which is essential for certain functions of the body, right down to the cellular level.

It’s also beneficial because it will help keep the horse drinking plenty of water. If they drink plenty of water, it could reduce the chances of them getting colic.
So as you can see, it’s good to let your horse have easy access to a salt lick. One of the most popular varieties is Himalayan salt.

How beneficial is Himalayan salt for horses?Himalayan salt was created around 250 million years ago when the ancient seas in that area of the world dried up. Along with the salt crystals that formed from the fertile waters of the ocean were a percentage of other minerals containing various essential elements – a total of 84 different elements and minerals.

This means that Himalayan licking salt contains many more minerals than just the sodium and chlorine ions your horse would get from normal salt.

Over the eons, geological pressures compressed and transformed the minerals and the salt together into what we mine today.

Mined from the world’s second largest salt mines at Khewra in Pakistan at the foot of the Himalayas, Himalayan rock salt is renowned the world over for being a healthy alternative for humans as much as it is for horses.

It’s very important to make sure you get your horse’s diet right; to make sure it’s not overfed, underfed, has the correct amount of minerals and vitamins, and gets enough fresh, clean water.

Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll have a little more insight into the dietary requirements of your horse.

Robert is from the Wirral, UK, and works for The Darlington Group in Eastham. Also known as ‘Darlies’, Darlingtons has been selling salt licks for years and now offers them in its online shop too. You can visit the Darlies website at:

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