Feed & Nutrition

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Horse owners have been wetting or soaking hay as a feed management practice for many years. Soaking hay for horses can be invaluable when feeding a hay that is a little dusty as a result of soil contamination or where it was stored in the barn. Horses that have allergies and are sensitive to the natural dust and particles in hay can benefit significantly from wetting or soaking hay.

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Donkeys are highly adaptable feeders. If given the opportunity, they will consume a variety of different grasses and shrubs to obtain sufficient nutrients. It is generally accepted that the donkey can exist with less food than a horse. Their efficient utilization of food makes donkeys easy keepers, but don’t let the term misguide you. It is important to take care in determining when and how much to feed as obesity is a major concern in modern domesticated donkeys.

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Horse owners know how important good nutrition is to the health and performance of their animals. They spend considerable time and money ensuring that their horses are provided with the nutrition they need to do a job and stay healthy. There is a great deal of debate in the equine industry today about feed and its safety or suitability for our horses.

Equine Cushing’s Disease, more correctly called Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a non-cancerous but progressive enlargement of the pituitary gland in the horse. It is estimated that 20 percent of horses over the age of 15 will develop PPID. Note that Cushing’s Syndrome in humans and dogs (when not due to giving too much steroidal medication) involves an actual tumour of either the pituitary or the adrenal glands, (either benign or malignant), whereas Cushing’s Disease in horses has a different cause.

Horse owners are familiar with the tragic pictures shared on social media of the emaciated horse rescued by the authorities, or the one that could not be saved due to its poor condition. Malnourished horses are a reality even in our affluent Western world. Sometimes these horses are the result of well-intentioned people trying to “save” unwanted horses, only to find they are unable to do so because of cost or scarcity of feed.

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We all want healthy horses with beautiful muscle tone, that are neither too fat nor too thin. In short, we want our horse to have the ideal body condition. But what is an ideal body condition and, especially, how does one evaluate it effectively?

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Though powerful, horses are also fragile. Since we are consistently pushing their limits, performance horses are the most vulnerable of all. The saying, “Illness comes on horseback but departs on foot,” could easily be referring to the joint injuries that afflict far too many of our horses. Unfortunately, these injuries are quite difficult to treat. Our best option is to use nutrition as a simple and effective prevention strategy.

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