Back To CourseAnimal Science Study Guide
5 chapters | 35 lessons
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.
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:
That's just a small sample of the various facilities and equipment used in stables, tracks, and ranches for horses.
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.
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.
Before horses are bred, they will undergo a breeding soundness exam (BSE), which you can think of as being a thorough health check-up of the horse, with special focus given to their reproductive system. For instance, if we are to examine a mature female horse, called a mare, we would clean out her rectum of any feces, use plenty of lubrication, and insert an ultrasound probe to help examine the internal structure of her reproductive system, such as her uterus (womb) and ovaries (which produce the eggs) for any signs of problems. Ultrasound is a type of technology that uses sound waves to create an image of an internal body structure.
Once a successful pregnancy has been established, the average length of gestation (pregnancy) is about 340 days. After about 340 days foaling, the process of giving birth to a baby horse (a foal), will begin. After the foal is born, it will nurse from its mother. Eventually, it will be weaned away from its mother. That means the foal will be transitioned away from using its mother's milk as a source of food. The average age of weaning in a horse is about 4-5 months of age.
Horses are kept as pets, used as transportation, and even bred for food. They can be housed in stables. They will need buckets, feeders, and appropriate ventilation systems where they are housed.
Horses are monogastric herbivores. This means they have one stomach and eat plants, respectively. They drink many gallons of water per day and will spend up to 70% of their time grazing, if allowed to do so in large enough pastures of land. Their diet needs to be carefully balanced in terms of how much fat, protein, and vitamins and minerals they receive.
Prior to reproduction, horses should undergo a breeding soundness exam (BSE) by a veterinarian to help ensure as successful a pregnancy as possible. Gestation (pregnancy) length in a horse is roughly 340 days. Once a foaling, the process of giving birth to a foal, has occurred, the foal will nurse from his or her mom until about 4-5 months of age when they are weaned away from mom. This means they are fully transitioned away from using the mother's milk as a source of food.
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Back To CourseAnimal Science Study Guide
5 chapters | 35 lessons