All horses and ponies need to eat approximately 2% of their bodyweight in forage (or forage and feed) per day to maintain condition when in light to medium work. If they are overweight then this can be reduced to 1.5%. Any less can compromise their health causing mental distress (possibly leading to development of stereotypies), metabolic dysfunction (ketosis), and stomach (gastric) ulcers.
Much of today’s hay and forage is too high in sugar, carbohydrates, starch and protein for many horses and ponies making it very difficult to control weight and manage laminitis and other problems while maintaining adequate forage intake. Soaking will not make unsuitable hay ‘safe’ to feed to susceptible animals.
Most bagged chaffs and compound feeds are also too high in sugar, carbohydrates, starch and protein for horses and ponies in light to medium work. However, these products are heavily promoted as an essential component of the equine diet in the belief that they will provide the required mineral supplementation in the diet. The type of starch and processing also influences how easily it is digested and has implications for the health of the hind gut.
There are so many supplements and bagged feeds on the market that providing a balanced diet for you horse and pony seems very complicated and overwhelming. The underlying principle is very simple though –if the basic nutritional profile of the diet is unsuitable, no balancer or supplement will correct it.
Simply feed a diet based on feetfirstTM hay – which is low in sugar and starch – with a separate, low calorie mineral supplement such as Barn Bag (1). You can then manage energy (calorie) intake independently of mineral supplementation.
Eliminate all bagged feeds or forage from the diet, even those recommended for laminitics.
If more energy is required for weight gain or increasing work load, non-molassed sugar beet pulp or vegetable oil are recommended as a suitable source of extra calories and energy (1).
It is as easy as that! Using feetfirstTM hay, you are keeping as closely as possible to a natural diet.
(1) Life Data (http://www.lifedatalabs.co.uk/)