Feeding Horses: What Is a Forage?

DSC07646

Pasture, or grass, is a forage.

Forages contain a high crude-fiber content.  In general, a forage would be grass or hay.  Horses should be fed to horses because they provide nutrients.  But they don’t do just that.  Forage keeps up the muscle tone in the GI tract and provides horses with something to do.  Without forage, horses can develop bad habits such as stall weaving and wood-chewing.

According to Feeding and Care of the Horse, forages have the following characteristics:

They are bulky.

They high in fiber and low in digestible energy.

Forages are high in calcium and potassium and low in phosphorous. 

Sun-cured hays are higher in vitamins E, A, and K.

Vary in protein content.

Horses should have access to pasture in moderation.  But hay can be fed in larger amounts.  It is recommended that horses be fed many small meals throughout the day or else get their hay in a slow feeder to make it last longer.  This simulates natural grazing activity.

DSC06685

Hay should be fed in little bits to mimic natural grazing.

Advertisements

Alfalfa and Blister Beetles

DSC03744

_________________________________________________________________

Horse facts as told by a Shetland pony.

 Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, tells about blister beetles and alfalfa hay.

_________________________________________________________________

If you have ever taken a flake of alfalfa and shaken it out, only to find crushed striped or spotted bugs with large, spiny antennae hidden inside, you have probably encountered Blister Beetles.  These toxic pests are large, approximately 1 inch long.  The reason why they are harmful to horses upon ingestion is the presence of the  toxin Cantharidin, which remains inside the beetles for as many as three years.   Belonging to the family Meloidae,  Blister Beetles come in over 200 different species and may be black with yellow or orange stripes or grayish tan paired sometimes with black spots and sometimes without.

If your horse appears to be “off his feed”, Blister Beetles can be a prime suspect. These insects are sometimes eaten by horses, usually concealed in baled  alfalfa (a legume hay that is very high in protein); colic can occur.  The minimum lethal quantity of blister beetles for a 1,100 lb horse is thought to be as few, or even less than, 125 beetles.

Treatment of Blister Beetle poisoning can be difficult.  It has no specific treatment; in severe cases, mineral oil can be administered.  Horses have either recovered or succumbed within 1-3 days.  After treatment, laminitis can result.

Prevention is always the easiest and surest way.  One way to do this is not to feed  alfalfa or to obtain alfalfa from a field that is cut before it blooms for this reduces the possibility of hidden beetles.

Not all places are home to Blister Beetles, as they are usually found in warm, dry locations.  So, if the beetles have not been found in fields nearby or you do not feed alfalfa or other flowering hays, your horses are probably safe.

 

 

Plants to Watch out for in Pastures

DSC06465

_________________________________________________________________

Horse facts as told by a Shetland pony.

 Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, tells about plants that ARE TOXIC TO HORSES.

_________________________________________________________________

Here is a list of many plants that can be toxic to horses. Keep in mind that no list is complete; there are more still.

Elderberry Sambuccus spp.

Goose Grass Triglochin spp.

Milkweed Asclepias Speciosa

Wild Blue Flax Linum spp.

Serviceberry Amelanchier Alnifolia

Larkspur Delphinium spp.

Spotted Hemlock Conium Maculatum

Yellow Oleander Thevetia Peruviana 

Water Hemlock Cicuta spp.

Death Camas Zigadenus spp.

Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus Officinalis

Wooly Locoweed Astragalus Mollisimus

White Prairie Aster Aster Falcatus

Broomweed Guterrezia Sarothrae

Gumweed Grindelia spp.

Snake Grass Equisetum Arvense

Fringed Sage Artemisia Frigida

Sand Sage Artemisia Filifolia

Creeping Indigo Indigofera Spicata

Pokeweed Phytolacca Americana

Black Locust Robinia Pseudoacacia

Field Bindweed Convolvulus Arvinsis

Mountain Laurel Kalmia Latifolia

Azalea Rhododendron Catawbiense

Fetterbush Leucothoe spp.

Mountain Pieris Pieris spp.

Buttercup Ranunculus spp.

Saltbush Atriplex spp.

Click here for even more plants that are  poisonous to horses…

The “Peacock of the Showring”

DSC01499

_____________________________________________________________

Horse facts as told by a Shetland pony.

 Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, tells about the AMERICAN SADDLEBRED.

_____________________________________________________________

The American Saddlebred originated as a cross between the Thoroughbred, Canadian Pacer, Arabian, Morgan, American Trotter and other breeds.  The breed was first named the Kentucky Saddler.  Later, the name was changed to the American Saddlebred.

In 1901, the registry, which went by the name of the American Saddle Horse Association, listed ten founding sires but by 1908 the list had been shortened to only one, the great Thoroughbred stallion, Denmark.

In the showring, the Saddlebred is known for high head carriage, flashy, high-stepping gaits and a flagged tail.  Depending on the individual, Saddlebreds may be 3 or 5-gaited.  Horses with the ability to perform all five can do the walk, trot, canter, slow gait or amble, and the rack.  3-gaited horses only perform the walk, trot and canter.

Saddlebreds with pinto markings can be also registered with the PtHA (Pinto Horse Association).

The original Saddlebred Registry was founded in 1891 but the name we know it by today was adopted in 1980.

DSC02437

A lifelike Breyer model of a pinto Saddlebred weanling. 

The “Sunshine Vitamin”

DSC03744

_________________________________________________________________

Horse facts as told by a Shetland pony.

 Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, tells why horses need VITAMIN D.

_________________________________________________________________

Vitamin D is essential for mineral utilization and helps horses absorb calcium and phosphorous.  It is fat-soluble and is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin.”

In horses, Vitamin D toxicity is a cumulative effect and causes abnormally high absorption of calcium, sensitivity of leg tendons, increased heart rate and many other ill effects.

Horses obtain Vitamin D from ultraviolet sunlight and sun-cured cut hay (not from grass or pasture; sun-curing hay increases the Vitamin D content).

 

Why Vitamin A is Important to Horses

DSC06465

_________________________________________________________________

Horse facts as told by a Shetland pony.

 Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, tells why horses need VITAMIN A.

_________________________________________________________________

Vitamin A helps horses maintain good vision, especially at night.  Horses need it for healthy skin and strong muscles.  Lack of Vitamin A in equines can create problems such as a dull, scruffy coat, poor night vision (horses have much sharper night vision than people do) and severe anemia.

Toxic amounts of this vitamin can cause decreased blood clotting, poor skin quality and bone abnormalities.

Because microbes in the horse’s small intestine need beta-carotene to produce vitamin A, good sources include hay, grass and carrots.