Feeding your horse shouldn’t just be about what is on trend or what is on special. Balanced nutrition can save you a lot of money in supplementing what’s missing. If you don’t want to see your hard-earned money end up just a pile of poo – read on. 

At Wandilla Farm, we have a combination of horses and ponies from different backgrounds with a vast array of needs. And guess what, I don’t feed my horses like I feed my ponies!

Let’s take a look at the ponies’ diet – 

I use rhodes grass hay which has tested nicely in terms of non-structural carbohydrates – which is extremely important for my PPID ponies here. When I look at the hay analysis, I’m looking at the ESC (simple sugars) and Starch and want a combination below 10%.  Dr Eleanor Kellon, my mentor, nutritionist and vet advocates a percentage of 10% or below which I follow. I look at the DE (digestible energy) and Mcal requirements for my ponies and formulate a diet from there.  Included in the analysis is Crude Protein, Estimated Lysine, WSC, ESC, Starch, major minerals, Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Chloride (Cl), Magnesium (Mg), Calcium (Ca), Trace Minerals – Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn) and Manganese (Mn).  

Horses and ponies evolved as foraging herbivores – meaning they foraged on herbs, grasses, and trees including bark, leaves and flowers to name a few and constantly moved as a result.  Since domestication, their diets have become one of monoculture, that is being fed the same hay/pasture day in and day out with sometimes a hard feed incorporated in the day’s rations.  What has also changed is their sedentary lifestyle – this has led to obesity in our beloved equines along with secondary problems.  Take my two Shetland ponies…they are perfect examples of how easily weight can creep on due to lack of exercise.  By allowing them to become sedentary they quickly put on weight – cresty neck, puffy eye sockets, fat deposits on the hind end etc.  Secondary problems can result in laminitis/founder if not correctly managed.  Even trying to reduce their hay and concentrates is a challenge without creating digestive upset.

Once you have identified what is missing, or where you need to supplement, look at what it is you are feeding your steed – on the label. When reading a label it’s important to think about what the nutritional requirements are for your horse – are you feeding for lactation, growth, performance, illness/injury or maintenance? 

In conclusion, mastering equine nutrition is more than a monetary consideration—it’s an investment in the health and happiness of our equine companions.

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