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Hay is for Horses

It’s the basis of every equine diet, yet its nutritional content is often poorly understood

From their wide, flat molars, designed for grinding tough, gritty stems, to their gastrointestinal tracts, which process the nutrition bound in fibrous plants, horses are equipped to get the maximum benefit out of food sources that many other species of animals reject.

Evolution has also provided horses with speed, eyes set high on the sides of the head (the better to see approaching predators while grazing) and a preference for a herd lifestyle. This has helped wild horses survive for thousands of years while wandering the open grasslands in search of food.

Domestic horses don’t have the luxury of roaming for hundreds of miles in search of choice grazing. Confined to stalls and paddocks, they rely on your footcare clients to provide the forage they need. For a good part of the year, when sufficient pasture is not available, that means sun-cured, dried and baled grass and/or legume hay.

Forage should be the basis of all horse feeding programs used by your clients. It provides the bulk of required nutrients for daily maintenance metabolism and stimulates the muscle tone and activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Horses receiving inadequate amounts of forage in their diets run the risk of colic and founder, as well as stable vices derived from having too little to chew on.

No Nutritional Labels

While grain mixes and supplements come with convenient labels outlining their nutritional profiles, the same doesn’t hold true for hay. The nutrition that hay delivers depends on dozens of factors, including the mix…

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Karen Briggs

As an equine nutritionist, Karen Briggs researched, designed and marketed a line of premium quality feeds for performance, pleasure and breeding horses. She’s also offered nutritional and ration balancing information to horse owners throughout Ontario. Located in Puslinch, Ontario, the award-winning equine writer is also a Canadian Equestrian Federal certified-riding instructor and has managed several Canadian farms and riding schools.

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