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Horses: Let Them Eat Hay

In the wild, horses are forage animals. Their digestive systems are specially designed to process low-protein, high-fiber foods on a continuous basis. Unlike humans, horses don’t have gall bladders to accumulate digestive enzymes between meals and then release them as needed. As a result, horses are not well suited to eating only once or twice a day.

For proper digestion a horse requires sufficient roughage, in the form of hay or pasture grass, to eat free choice throughout most of the day and into the night. Willamette Valley hay, with its relatively low protein, typically suits this purpose fine. Twelve to fifteen pounds per day is generally sufficient for the average horse.

To ensure adequate nutrition, a vitamin and mineral supplement or fortified grain should be provided during the customary feeding times. This allows the owner to adjust the amount and type of supplementation to match the nutritional requirements of each individual horse.

Feeding practices are nearly as varied and numerous as horse owners themselves. Providing sufficient roughage is a critical element in any successful horse care program.

The Feed Guy

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