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How to Feed & Manage Horses

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Horses are very complex animals that require diligent care from their owners. This lesson goes over the various operations horses can be found in, some nutritional considerations, and the basics of equine reproduction.

Horses & Their Uses

We've used them in agriculture. We've used them in war. They're elite athletes, a means of transportation, and pets. They are horses. The wide variety of things that we've used them for is quite amazing. There is an even wider variety of things to consider when feeding and managing these animals. Let's go over the fundamentals of horse operations, facilities, equipment, biology, nutrition, and reproduction.

Operations, Facilities, Equipment

Horse operations around the world are almost as varied as the horse breeds found on our planet. There are people who own one or two horses and keep them in backyard barns or board them at local facilities. Some people breed horses for shows or for athletic competitions. Other people raise horses to be work animals, be they used for pulling carts on a ranch, for transporting a cowboy, for police work, or even for military purposes. Also, it bears mentioning, that in some parts of the world horses are raised in operations designed to slaughter them and sell them for meat. They are also a food animal.

Depending on how they are raised, and to what end, the facilities and equipment used to raise and house them will vary. However, here are some basic considerations of the facilities and equipment necessary to raise horses:

  • Stables and barns
  • Riding arenas
  • Fire protection and ventilation systems
  • Pastureland
  • Horseshoes, saddles, and leads
  • Buckets, feeders, and mounting blocks (which help you mount and dismount a horse).

That's just a small sample of the various facilities and equipment used in stables, tracks, and ranches for horses.

Basic Biology & Nutrition

When it comes to horses, one of the most important considerations besides where and how they are housed is their nutrition. Horses have a unique biology that influences what they should eat. Horses are herbivores, which means they are plant eaters. However, unlike other large domesticated herbivorous animals, such as cattle, they are not ruminants. This means that they have a stomach made up of one compartment, much like humans, and not like cattle, which are ruminants and have a stomach system made up of four compartments. Because they have one stomach, horses are monogastric animals, where mono- means one and -gastr/o refers to the stomach.

The most important nutritional factors for horses are water, carbohydrates, protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. Horses, depending on environmental conditions, will drink about 6 gallons of water per day. This can easily go up to 25 gallons a day when physically stressed through exertion or due to heat. Another important consideration is their diet. The more grain horses eat, the more water they will need to drink.

If horses are housed in large pastures, they'll spend roughly 70% of their time grazing, and most of the energy that a horse acquires and uses comes from the utilization of carbohydrates obtained from their food. Fat can also provide the horse with energy but should make up the minority of the horse's diet. The amount of protein any horse will need depends on their age, sex, and other factors.

As for minerals, one important consideration is calcium and phosphorus. These two minerals depend on one another to keep the horse's skeletal system in tip-top shape. Thus, you should analyze them together in proportion to one another as opposed to separately from one another when feeding a horse. This means that the calcium to phosphorus ratio should be balanced, and the balance will be anywhere from 1.1:1 to 6:1, depending on the horse's age and physiological status. Your horse's veterinarian will be able to give you the precise ratio that should be used for your horse's unique needs.

Fundamentals of Reproduction

Nutrition also plays a key role in equine reproduction. However, the nuances of that and nutrition in general are too great in scope for this lesson. Instead, let's focus on understanding the basic terms related to equine reproduction.

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