Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter December 2014

December 2014

Holistic Horse Health: 3 Important Things to Consider when Feeding a Young Horse

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 19, Number 12

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In This Issue:

1. Holistic Horse Health: 3 Important Things to Consider when Feeding a Young Horse
2. December Store Specials

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1. Holistic Horse Health: 3 Important Things to Consider when Feeding a Young Horse
Madalyn on horseThere are 3 important things to consider when feeding a young horse. Macro nutrition, including adequate levels of protein, energy and macro minerals such as calcium, and phosphorus, are all vital for healthy growth and development. Micro nutrition, providing vitamins and trace minerals, is equally important. The third critical and often overlooked area is digestibility.

Macro nutrition
Young horses need a higher level of protein for proper growth. Over all protein levels for a weanling need to be around 14% and 12% for the yearling. Grass hay or pasture protein levels average between 5 and 13%. Testing your hay or pasture is the only sure way to know the protein levels but if this is not possible it is better to err towards too much protein than not enough. Quality of protein is also important. Normally I am not a fan of soybean but the amino acid, lysine, is low in cereal grains so soybean meal may be needed to get adequate levels of lysine. Alfalfa is a wonderful source of protein for an older horse but the 7 to 1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus makes it hard to balance for a horse under 2 years old.

Energy is another important requirement that is much higher in the young, growing horse. Older horses, not being worked, can easily get enough energy from adequate pasture or a quality grass hay. Young horses need extra carbohydrates and fats to maintain weight while growing. Unless the pasture or hay is of exceptional quality some form of concentrate supplement will be required. Normally I prefer whole foods but in the case of a growing foal you may be wise to feed a formulated concentrate that is designed for a young horse. Young horses need a much higher amount of concentrate compared to roughage because they have not fully developed their ability to digest fiber in forage. Follow the feeding directions on the feed but watch closely to make sure your foal does not gain too much weight.

Macro minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are not only needed for growing healthy bones but they must be present in the correct balance. For example, too much calcium will interfere with magnesium absorption and too much phosphorus will interfere with calcium. A ration of 1-2/1 of calcium/phosphorus is best for a growing horse.

Micro nutrition
Trace minerals and vitamins are critical for proper development. The best way to assure your foal gets off to a good start with micro nutrition is to feed plenty of high quality, whole foods to your mare. Blue green algae is one of the best whole food sources of micro nutrients. Whole foods are always preferred when it comes to vitamins and trace minerals. The ratios of trace minerals, such as copper and zinc, is not as important in the growing horse as with macro minerals. The main thing is to make sure none are lacking in the diet. Vitamins are usually provided by fresh pasture but are often lacking in dried grass hay. Alfalfa may be a better source of trace minerals for the pregnant mare but alfalfa should be discontinued once the foal starts to share in the mare’s food.

Feed Digestibility
This area of feeding a young horse is often neglected. With a holistic feeding program we depend on forage as the most natural feed for a horse but a young horse often can’t digest forage well. Too much poorly digested forage can cause a foal to look potbellied because the large intestine fills up with hay that is not being processed well. Until the young horse develops the needed fiber digesting bacteria population in the large intestine he will need more concentrates. Different foals develop fiber digestion at different rates so watching the belly is a good indicator if your foal is handling fiber well. Feeding a probiotic can help get the fiber digesting bacteria up to par sooner. I like a probiotic that is combined with blue green algae. Fat is another nutrient that is needed by a growing horse and fat helps get the fiber digesting bacteria growing well, but not all fat is good. Processed oils are hard to digest and they are empty of any trace minerals. Chia seeds are a much better source of nutrient dense fat for a growing horse, especially if it is showing a pot belly.

Young horses, like adults, have very different abilities to digest and assimilate food but if you keep these 3 important things in mind when feeding your young horse you will likely see him develop at a steady pace. Never let your young horse get fat. You want to be able to feel his ribs but not see them. A fat foal is at risk for many bone development problems. A foal that is growing slowly can withstand a short term mineral imbalance, but rapid growth can be damaging even when all nutrients are present and in balance.

2. December Store Specials
Looking for a special holiday gift for the horse lover in your life? Check out the Holistic Horsekeeping online store. For the month of December we have all Dr. Ward’s books, ebooks, audios and the homestudy course for 20% off the regular price. Extra savings for lots of holistic horse care information! That’s a great way to get gifts this holiday not only for your horse loving friends and family, but for yourself. Head on over to www.holistichorsekeeping.com to the online store and check out the savings.

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