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  • July 20, 2023 3 min read

    Feeding For Calm Behaviour

    What we feed our horses plays a crucial role in their overall health and behaviour. Whilst proper training and education plays a major role in how a horse behaves, nutrition can also significantly impact a horse's temperament. In this article, we will explore various feeding strategies that can help create a balanced diet to support a horse's mental well-being. 

    Feed a Balanced Diet 

    A balanced diet is essential for a horse's overall health and mental stability. Ensure your horse receives a balanced blend of high-quality forage, grains, and supplements, if necessary. Good-quality hay or pasture should form the foundation of their diet. If additional energy is required, you can introduce grain or legume based feeds, but it should be done in moderation and tailored to the horse's specific needs. Consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate grain and supplement options for your horse's temperament and activity level.

    Up the Forage 

    As mentioned above, forage (pasture grass and hay) should form the foundation of your horse's diet. A minimum of 1.5% to 2% of your horse's body weight should be fed in forage per day. There are a couple of reasons why forage is so important for your horse, and these include:

    • Long stemmed forage promotes chewing, and chewing is so important not only for the horse's digestive system, but also for their mental health. In their natural environment, horses chew for 16 - 20 hours per day! The more time a horse spends chewing, the more mentally content they become. Also, chewing promotes saliva production, which buffers the acidity of the stomach, keeping the horse more comfortable. 
    • Forage is fibre, and we know fibre is essential to the horses gastrointestinal wellbeing. Fibre in the stomach prevents stomach acid from reaching the squamous region of the stomach, thereby preventing gastric ulcers. Forage also promotes the good bacteria in the horses gastrointestinal tract. 
    • A diet high in forage will usually be low in starch. Starch has been shown to have an influence on a horses behaviour, so diets low in starch are more likely to promote calm behaviour. 

    Don't Feed Too Much 

    Feeding your horse too much will often lead to excess energy requirements. In some horses, this just translates to extra kilos, but in others, excess energy can have a real impact on their behaviour! When determining how much to feed your horse, consider the type of work they do, and for what duration. Also, consider feeding your horse according to its workload for that day. For example, if your horse has a rest day then you would feed less on that day. Similarly, if your horse does a high intensity workout on one day, then their feed intake would increase. It is important to remember that when feeding in this way, you would not introduce new feeds into your horse's diet, but rather just increase or decrease the quantity accordingly. 

    Feed No Fizz or Cool Feeds 

    There are many cool feeds on the market that promote low fizz. Cool feeds have been formulated to or naturally ferment in the hind gut, which is most natural for the horse and so is a cool source of energy. Examples of cool feeds include beet pulp, soybean meal, lupin hulls, copra meal and oils such as linseed or rice bran oil. If your horse is sensitive to feed sources, avoid feeding grains and high sugar feeds (molasses based), as this will tend to exacerbate hot behaviour. 

    Calming Supplements 

    In certain situations, such as stressful events or when working with particularly anxious horses, calming supplements can provide additional support. Speak with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist to identify suitable supplements that can help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety in your horse. These supplements often contain ingredients like magnesium, B vitamins, chamomile, and valerian root, which have calming properties. However, it is important to note that each horse is unique, and the effectiveness of calming supplements can vary. Always follow the recommended dosage and monitor your horse's response when introducing any new supplements. And remember, if you are competing your horse, some calming supplement ingredients are swabbable! 

    Feeding practices have a significant impact on a horse's behavior and mental well-being. Remember that individual horses may have different nutritional requirements and sensitivities, so consulting with professionals, such as veterinarians and equine nutritionists, is essential to tailor a feeding plan that suits your horse's specific needs. With proper nutrition and thoughtful feeding practices, you can contribute to a happier and more serene horse.

    At Oakford Stockfeeds we are here to help! We have a wide range of cool feeds and calming supplements available to help you and your horse! 

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