For so many years, and way back in the days before mass produced horse feed, the horse lived off of what was created on our beautiful earth. Grass and Water. Then as man took over, the horse was turned out onto a good quality pasture and was supplemented with hay when grass was sparse or stressed due to drought, over worked by the horses, etc. A salt block was usually put in the pasture or stall and plenty of water should always be available. This is basic for all horses and will for the most part keep your horse in good health. As if you look back to your horses ancestral history, the horse ate and worked in the wild on just that, grass and water. These two items are imperative for proper digestive health as well. They need high fiber. The high fiber supports a beneficial bacteria that normally resides in the horses belly. The equine has a high capacity digestive system which is able to process a huge amount of forage on a regular basis.
So how does one know if there horse is receiving the proper dosage of forage? The rule is that one horse can be sustained nutritionally on no less than two acres of quality pasture. If you are unsure of the nutritional value of your pasture grass you can call your local extension agent or any other type of livestock farmer or agronomist and they should be able to advise you on renewing your grass or if your grass is ample nutritionally speaking.
You also should watch out for the type of hay that you are feeding. Do not over order hay, no matter what kind of deal you receive. Things you should look for in your hay are:
Is the hay leafy? Leaves hold the protein, to be specific, about ninety percent of the leaves are protein enriched. They also contain soluble carbohydrates, so you want hay with smaller and fewer stems.
How is the coloring? Grass hay's coloring should be light to medium green with alfalfa being a darker shade of green. You do not want a hay that has too much yellow as most likely it was cut too late and over matured leaving the hay with less soluble carbohydrates.
How is the smell? If your hay has a bad odor – do not feed it to your horse. If it arrives this way, make the dealer take it back, always check your hay for smell when it is delivered or when you pick it up, it should have a fresh, sweet smell.
What does the hay feel like? Is it soft and pliable – you do not want any coarse or hard stems – grab a handful and make sure the hay does not stab your hand.
Check the hay – make sure its clean, not full of dirt and weeds and sticks. Check for dead or alive bugs or animals. It should be lightweight and not heavy.
As important as good grass and hay is to your equine animal, you must make sure your horse has a plentiful supply of clean, fresh water. A horse weighing a thousand pounds will consume around ten gallons of water a day. The horse belly will hold three to four gallons of water. As horses grow older their bodies contain less water, unfortunately this makes the aging horse more inclined to dehydrate or colic. Body fluids are required for proper food digestion, this includes; saliva, gastric juices which flood the stomach and intestines. If your horse is thirsty, they will not eat. Most of their water is consumed during or just after they eat, so make sure they have an abundant supply and make sure you keep the waterer nice and clean, especially during the summer months where algae is more susceptible.
These are just a few pointers for your pasture and hay. It only takes a few moments of your time to inspect your hay deliveries, but it is very crucial to the nutritional needs of your horse.