10 Top Tips for a Healthy Horse
10 TOP TIPS FOR A HEALTHY HORSE
Providing great practical information for caring owners like you is our greatest passion. Here are 10 of our Top Tips to help you keep your horse healthy and performing at his or her best this summer.
- Check your horse’s selenium levels via a blood test every 6 months
Ideal levels are 2300 – 3200. Your vet can organizing the taking of blood and testing at the lab
- "Cow pat” poo is not healthy! You get out what you put in!
Your horse’s manure should be
- Well-formed, break apart quite easily when dropping on to the ground. Hard manure can show a lack of hydration - Not enough salt beng fed.
- Not bright green or very dark. Brown is good and manure will be that colour when horses eat good amounts of hay.
- Not loose at all. Loose manure can be due to excessive sugar and potassium content in grass when it is lush, stomach ulcers or hind gut irritation from low fibre high sugar feeds or grass.
- Feed plenty of hay.
Hay is rated one of the most important aspects of the equine diet. Horses have evolved to eat high amounts of fibre that are low in nutrition and they have not evolved past that. Not feeding adequate fibre leads eventually to health issues such as ulcers, Equine Metabolic Syndrome and laminitis. Ideal amounts are 1.5-2% of bodyweight which equates to 7.5-10kg per 500kg horse, of fibrous material like hay or long standing hay type grass.
- Feed a high quality mineral supplement formulated to New Zealand conditions.
Some popular mineral supplements are designed for other countries which have entirely different pasture conditions and mineral levels than we do. Some of these are cheap products and use low quality ingredients that lack bioavailability and therefore the horse will not be well nourished by them.
- Avoid feeding garlic
It is a poisonous plant for horses and causes Heinz Body Anaemia.
- Avoid feeding electrolytes high in potassium unless you know your horse is low in potassium.
Grass, protein feeds and lucerne can contain high levels of potassium and research shows adding more in the form of electrolytes actually decreases performance considerably and adds to dehydration.
- Feed good levels of salt (sodium chloride).
Salt, unlike potassium, is often lacking in the equine diet. Salt activates the thirst reflex and ensures your horse drinks properly. High potassium levels can cause dehydration so it is essential to feed salt, which ensures your horse drinks adequate water and therefore excreting excess potassium. 10g per 100kg is a minimum feeding amount.
- Beware of "Meadow Hay” Chaff
This can be cropped annual ryegrass. Ryegrass is unsuitable to feed to many horses. It can contribute to mud fever, sunburn, head flicking and photosensitivity. It can have high sugar levels which can affect horses with equine metabolic syndrome, subclinical laminitis and more advanced laminitis. It may also have high potassium levels.
- Beware of feeding lucerne in hot weather.
Heat is a by-product of the digestion of lucerne. In hot weather this can literally heat the horse from the inside out.
- Be careful of protein levels in your horse’s diet
Be mindful that grass can also contain high levels of protein. This excess becomes toxic in the horse’s bloodstream. Symptoms show up as excessive sweating, grumpy or aggressive behaviour, spooky behaviour or "losing the plot”.