Things have really changed in the 30+ years I have been caring for horses. It used to be oats and pasture were all you needed to feed a horse and the only concern was getting enough grain in the diet to keep the them fat without causing colic or founder. Hay was given only when the grass did not grow due to drought.
When I first started feeding horses only those that worked got grain. Non working horses were expected to make it on pasture. Of course, people had land and kept horses on hundreds of acres. Now many horses are basically back yard pets or if they do work they rarely see anything resembling real pasture. Ten acre traps or cultivated hay fields are just not the same as hundreds of acres to roam and forage native plants.
We have had to adapt. When pasture became scarce it seemed horses simply did not thrive on oats and hay. At first it looked like formulated feeds with extra vitamins and minerals would save the day but alas horses still did not do well. Then I discovered blue green algae and I could give it along with oats and hay and my horses did great.
The last few years, however, even the algae does not seem to be enough to feed a horse and keep him healthy. I have seen a huge increase in insulin resistant horses, EPM and parasite problems. I don’t think our conventionally grown hay is offering much nutritional value and with horses working less it is the main staple of the diet.
So again we adapt. I see more and more new feeds for horses that include digestive supports to help the gut work better and unusual food ingredients to get minerals and fatty acids to the horse since they don’t get these from the hay. Horse feed and supplement companies are starting to understand that there are more and more horse owners willing to pay for quality products to keep their horses healthy.
Horse owners are becoming very well educated on horse nutrition and management. Many are taking steps to create mini pastures for their horses and feeding more live and varied foods. They are taking shoes off horses and getting them to exercise. Some people are skipping the show scene and instead opting to socialize and expand their knowledge at horsemanship clinics and shows that judge on versatility rather than raw talent. We are adapting to help our horses fit into their new lifestyle and because of this I see more healthy horses and happy owners.
Speaking of adapting. Have you noticed almost all hay comes now wrapped in string rather than baling wire. How are we supposed to hold our barns, trucks and fences together without baling wire? Occasionally I get some alfalfa wrapped in wire so I hoard these for special needs. Otherwise, I use cable ties. Cable ties are so much easier than wire and they last forever. They can’t take extreme heat but if you take a couple together they are as strong as wire for most things. I have adapted. Madalyn