Forage should be the basis of all nutrition. It will be necessary to maximize the ingestion time of each horse in order to best respect its natural feeding behavior.
The time spent eating forage should be at least 10 hours a day. Ideally, the horse should be able to manage its consumption as it wishes, throughout the day and night. Non-feeding times should not exceed 4 to 6 hours Slow feeders allow many horses to increase the time spent eating.
They therefore contribute to:
- extend the feeding time for the same quantity of forage;
- limit the waste of hay;
This solution can also be very interesting for too fat horses who are satisfied with very few calories to meet their needs.
The choice of forage is also particularly important. This is because the value of the herb is not the same throughout its growth cycle. So late cut grass will usually make less rich hay. For horses with low needs, it is therefore necessary to favor natural grassland forage, cut late, in order to have a fairly low nutritional value.
For overweight horses, it is recommended to choose forage with a low nutritional value rather than reducing the daily intake. When the needs are very low, the hay can be soaked in order to leach some of the sugars. This decreases the feed value of the forage.
On the contrary, for horses with high needs, forages cut at the very beginning of heading, with a higher nutritional value, will suit them better.
The nutritional analysis of the forage, after sending a representative sample to the laboratory, allows us to know precisely what the horse receives each day in terms of nutrients. It is advised as soon as possible.
Warning : do not confuse nutritional values and hay quality. While the nutritional value may vary, the quality should always be kept high in order to promote good health in the horses. Hay showing white, brown, gray or black color should be discarded from consumption. For grazing, it will be necessary to ensure that the plot does not contain poisonous plants.
As previously mentioned, preference should be given to hay from natural meadows, comprising a greater number of plant species, in order to meet the horse's need for diversity.
For horses in the meadow, as we have seen, good management of grazing areas will promote floristic diversity.
Finally, whatever the activity, the total dry matter consumed during the day must be made up of at least 50% fodder, and it is strongly recommended to reach 70%.
Forage is the basis of any diet, regardless of age, activity, temperament or location. Always maximize forage intake before considering adding concentrate.