With higher amounts of lower quality feed this year, Les Burwash, manager of horse programs for Alberta Agriculture and Food, emphasizes the importance of feed selection.
He says, “The most important thing to realize is good quality forage is the basis of all horse rations.”
Horses require a minimum of one per cent of body weight of long forage. This means a 1,000 pound horse will need a minimum of ten pounds of hay per day. Overall, in winter they require feed of about two-and-a-half per cent body weight which amounts to 25 pounds of hay per day. For most idle horses Burwash feels the daily ration can be supplied by good quality hay, alone.
“Look for hay that is free of dust and mould. Primarily, mould is what we’re concerned about,” cautions Burwash. Hay should be free of weeds. He also recommends hay that has a high leaf to stem ratio with soft stems and is packaged in a form that can readily be handled.
Feeding programs should be adjusted according to body condition. He says body condition scores of less than five on the Henneke (pro. Hen-ah-key) nine-point scale need increased calories. This can be done by increasing the amount of hay or adding one to two pounds of hay per head per day. Those with a body score of five or greater should be fed to maintain body weight.
Burwash explains that, when using the Henneke nine-point scale, horses with a body condition score of five are flat over the back, ribs cannot be visually seen even when they have their summer hair coat but the ribs can be felt very easily. Fat around the tail-head will start to feel spongy. The neck and the shoulders will blend smoothly in the body.