Category Archives: Horse Feeding

Raising Horses, Patience, and Horse Calming Supplements: Tips for Raising Horses

My best friend came to me the other day and told me that she was considering buying a few horses and training them to race. A jockey herself, she thought it would be a good idea as she slows down now at the end of her career. She’s been around horses, but actually raising them is somewhat new to her. And since I grew up on farm and helped my parents raise horses (among a long list of animals) she came to me seeking advice.

Over lunch we discussed why she wanted to take on this endeavor. She said that she wanted to have the full experience. I jokingly told her she’d need plenty of horse calming supplements on hand since some equines can be a little rambunctious. She’ll need some large helpings of patience as well. In all seriousness though, raising horses is very rewarding and fun, but there are times, like raising children, that you just want to go take a break and go away for a while.

It’s harder to communicate with horses. They can’t use words (obviously). They don’t apologize when they misbehave or just calm down because you tell them to. They really do try your patience. So it actually is a good idea of to have horse calming supplements on hand.

Our conversation then turned to general health for horses. She knew that she’d have to invest in equine supplements. But I cautioned her from just going shopping. She should discuss diet with her veterinarian. Each horse is different and some may need more of one supplement than others. Feed can also be enhanced per the vet’s guidelines.

There are many types of supplements besides calming. Joints, for instance, can become very painful, especially for equine athletes. There are joint supplements out there that are very effective in reducing inflammation along with pain. Hoof problems are also a concern. There is a product out there called Kombat Boots sold at that does a great job of healing hoof injuries. Another common problem is ulcers. Like humans, horses’ bodies can only take so much. It’s important to keep ulcers in mind because your horse can’t tell you when he or she has one. So I told my friend to make sure the supplements she decides on reduce ulcers. Most of the supplements at Performance Equine do that.

Other than supplements, the best advice I can give my friend and anyone thinking of owning a horse is to exercise. She of course knew this, but it’s a good reminder. Luckily for her, she has plenty of land to let the horses get as much exercise as they need.


Patty Carson lives on a farm in the Midwest. From the time she was little, Patty spent her days outside helping her dad take care of the family horses, often administering horse calming supplements and talking to the vet about proper equine care. Patty is known for volunteering her time at local animal shelters and promoting animal rights.

Feeding Horses – Modern Day Issues That Affect Your Horse’s Health

The vast array of feeds available in-store these days can make choices confusing, but working out a horse’s nutritional requirements does not have to be complicated. Horses have nutrient needs that can be calculated from bodyweight and activity levels. What does make horse nutrition complicated is the process of selecting feeds to balance the nutrient intake with each individual’s nutrient requirement, and providing the feeds in a form that suits the digestive system of the horse. It is often a lack of understanding about the relationship between the digestive system of the horse and the form of the feed, and how this affects the horse, that causes confusion.

It is well established in humans that they are what they eat. Obesity is now one of the major disorders in the western world – in both humans and horses. Can correlations and similarities be found between the two species, that can help improve health and well-being?

In order to know where to start it is helpful to look at some known facts. Firstly, pasture alone often does not provide enough nutrients for horses. Consequently, they are fed supplements in the form of concentrates and hay but some concentrates can be considered ‘fast foods’ – full of energy in the forms of sugars and fats. Many horses are overfed on fast foods, yet under-worked, which can lead to obesity, health and behavioral problems.


The non structural carbohydrates (NSC) index in horse feeds equates to the glycemic index (GI) in human foods, and is a way of measuring the energy in foods by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance – now identified as a serious and life-threatening condition in horses, equates to Type 11 diabetes in humans. Many metabolic disorders in horses are associated with high NSC feeds.

Digestion in horses

Digestion in horses is not the same as in cattle and sheep, which have large fore-stomachs. These animals are called ruminants, because they can ruminate, i.e store food in their fore-stomach, or rumen, and regurgitate and re-chew their food to gain more nutrients. By comparison, horses have a small stomach, and have to graze little and often to maintain nutrient intake. Horses graze at least 18 hours per day, i.e. they are ‘slow feeders’, meaning they eat slowly and the nutrients are absorbed continuously throughout the day.

Slow feeding

The relatively ‘new’ idea of devising ways to ‘slow feed’ horses makes a lot of sense. It provides a semi-continuous supply of nutrients to a digestive system designed to digest nutrients on a natural, continuous basis. This can be achieved with roughages and pastures, but is difficult to achieve when feeding high-energy concentrates. Human lifestyles add to the difficulty because many people don’t have time or aren’t available to feed concentrates little and often throughout the day.

Pulse or shock feeding

Unfortunately, with modern day horses, they often graze pastures designed for cattle, and are held in small paddocks or yards, which means than pasture intake may not be sufficient to deliver the required nutrient intake – especially for active horses in work. To meet the total nutrient demand, the horse often must be supplemented with other feeds, including hay, and processed feeds usually containing grain. Living conditions for horses and the lifestyle and work hours of their owners often determines that most horses are only fed twice or even once per day.

This style of feeding can deliver large loads of nutrients into a digestive system that is designed for a continuous supply. Termed pulse, or shock feeding, it is exacerbated when the feeds contain levels of some digestible nutrients (particularly sugar and starch) that exceed the digestive capacity of the horse’s intestines and cause spikes in the concentrations of blood glucose. These concentrated feeds can be considered as ‘fast foods’. ‘Pulse’ feeding ‘fast foods’ is one of the major factors contributing to the range of metabolic disorders found in horses today.

Feeding concentrates

Horse nutrition is based on mathematics. The nutrient requirement of horses can be calculated, and the nutrient composition of feeds can be measure and described in feed tables. The amount of feed required is a simple calculation; the difficulty is in knowing the effects of feeding concentrated feeds as ‘pulse’ feeds, rather than ‘slow feeds’, and knowing when one is over-feeding concentrate feeds.

What is a fast food?

Studies over recent years have identified the sugar and starch content of feeds as being one indicator of the ‘fast food’ status of a feed. All feeds contain sugar and starch, which are the major energy supplies to the horse. As said previously, the sugar and starch content is called NSC (non structural carbohydrate) and is equal to the glycaemic index (GI) in human nutrition.

The NSC content in a range of Australian horse feeds is shown below (Richards, N. Proc. Aust. Equine Sc. Symp., Vol 2, 2008)

This figure shows that commercially available horse feeds contain a range of NSC concentrations.

Grains also contain varying amounts of NSC, oats 46%, barley 57%, corn 65%, whereas hay contains as low as 7% NSC.

Feeds with higher NSC content are suited to horses in active work with higher energy demand, ie as work load increases, energy supply must increase.

For metabolically sensitive horses, e.g. older, overweight and/or laminitic horses and ponies, and some breeds, the suggested ‘safe’ NSC requirement is 10-12% in dry matter. It is proposed that feeding more than 12% NSC, and not increasing the horse’s work load is a possible reason for the metabolic disorders associated with over-feeding and under-working, because the horse is unable to burn off the additional energy from the glucose derived from the NSC.

NSC Digestion

Carbohydrates are composed of monosaccharides, which can only be absorbed from the intestines as glucose or fructose. Therefore all carbohydrates must be broken down to monosaccharides by various enzymes including amylase, maltase, sucrose and lactase. Amylase is the most important enzyme for digestion of starch. Unlike humans, amylase is not present in saliva in horses, and the horse only produces small amounts of amylase from the pancreas. The horse therefore has limited capacity to digest starch in the intestines.

Metabolic Disorders

The possible effects of overfeeding NSC feeds, in combination with pulse/shock load feeding rather than slow feeding, can be outlined as follows.

The Stomach

The horse’s stomach is divided into two sections. The second half has a thick cell wall lining, and the front half has a thin cell wall lining. With slow feeding, the feed enters the first part of the stomach and the horse releases acids into the stomach continuously, to help digest the food. With ‘shock’ feeding (feeding only twice per day) and feeding high NSC feeds, the horse releases higher levels of acid into the first stomach. The pH level declines, and can cause damage to the thin cell wall lining, causing ulcers. It is preferable to select low NSC feeds to reduce acid release into the first stomach, and feed little and often to avoid pulse/shock loading.

Small Intestines

The small intestine is designed to digest and absorb proteins, carbohydrates, oils, minerals and vitamins. The intestines have a maximum digestive capacity, and this capacity can be overloaded by feeding too much at any one time. They contain a large population of benign micro-oganisms, which live in symbiosis with the horse, i.e. they live together, where the horse provides the ‘home’ and the food supply, and the microbes digest the feed and provide nutrients to the horse. Dysbiosis occurs when the relationship between the host and the microbes is disturbed, usually when the feed supply to the microbes increases and there is rapid growth of the benign organisms, which can colonise the cell wall lining in the intestines. This may cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, which allows leakage of molecules such as glucose into the blood stream together with microbial toxins and other compounds. Leaky Gut Syndrome is known to occur in humans, and is implicated in Candida albicans. It is possible that Leaky Gut occurs in horses fed high NSC feeds, and causes increased blood glucose. What happens to the increased circulating level of glucose? If the horse does not use the glucose for energy (i.e. for exercise) the glucose has to go somewhere.

The horse releases insulin to enable the passage of glucose into the muscle cells. If there is too much glucose, the horse continues to produce insulin, but the cells lose insulin sensitivy and cease transporting glucose into the muscle cells. The cells become insulin resistant, which is the same as Type II diabetes in humans. Blood sugar levels rise, and insulin levels rise too. The blood sugar must go somewhere, and some can be stored in the fat cells, causing obesity. Increased insulin causes increased cortisol production, which in turn is implicated in laminitis, Cushing’s Syndrome and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). In some breeds, the glucose can be converted into an unusual polysaccharide and stored in the muscles, causing tying-up. It is well known that low NSC feeds should be fed to those horses susceptible to tying-up. Some glucose can also combine with proteins, forming a proteoglycan, which is deposited in connective tissue in the legs, possibly causing swelling and stocking up, lameness and DSLD. It is suggested that selecting low NSC feeds that don’t overload the intestines, causing abnormal growth of benign microbes (Dysbiosis), may be a possible means of reducing the effects of some of the feed-related metabolic disorders.

Large Intestines

The small intestine has a maximum capacity to digest sugars and starch. Feeding too much starch can cause starch overload, i.e. the sugars and starch flow on into the hindgut. The hindgut contains a population of microorganisms similar to that in the rumen of cattle. If cattle are overfed on grain, this causes acidosis (grain poisoning); the same effect occurs in horses. The additional sugar/starch is fermented by the microbes, and converted into acids, which are normally absorbed across the wall of the hindgut gut to provide energy. If the rate of fermentation is too high, the microbes produce high levels of acids, which are both absorbed, and also cause a decline in pH (acidity). These acids can cause cell wall damage and leakage of nutrients and microbial toxins into the blood stream. The effect of hindgut acidosis causing laminitis is well described by Dr Chris Pollitt in ‘Equine laminitis’ for Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Pub.No.01/129.

Hind gut acidosis is also implicated in causing hot and fizzy behaviour in horses.

Feeding low NSC feeds will reduce the flow of fermentable carbohydrates into the hindgut, and therefore reduce the production of acids.

Pulse Feeding

A pasture trail was conducted in which feeds with various levels of NSC were fed to grazing horses (Richards 2010). These included a sweetfeed (33% NSC), a pelleted feed (25% NSC), and CoolStance copra meal (11% NSC). The supplements were fed in two equal feeds, morning and night, in nose-bags to ensure all the food was eaten.

Circulating glucose was measured for six hours after pulse feeding.

Although the sweetfeed had a higher NSC, the digestible NSC was much lower, suggesting that some of the starch in the sweetfeed was passed undigested through the horse.

The results indicated that there was an immediate glucose spike after ‘pulse’ feeding the sweetfeed and pelleted feed with NSC>20%.

The CoolStance copra meal (NSC 11%) did not increase blood glucose levels above that in the pasture fed horses.

Is low NSC enough?

The pasture trial suggests that some energy feeds such as copra meal can be pulse fed, and yet be digested as a ‘slow feed’, ie they don’t cause a glucose spike. These feeds are low NSC and high DE (digestible energy) because they contain a combination of oil and digestible fibre. Some low NSC feeds are created by diluting the high NSC concentrate with poorly digestible, low NSC fillers, so they are low NSC and low DE, however, these feeds are usually unsuitable for performance horses.

High NSC Feeds and Horse Behavior

There is an age old expression that a horse is ‘feeling his oats’. This usually reflects a horse that is grain fed, and underworked, causing it to become ‘hot’, ‘excitable’, or ‘fizzy’. It is suggested that the glucose spike, and changes in insulin sensitivity arising from feeding high NSC feeds causes some horses to become hyperactive and difficult to manage. Reducing the NSC intake by feeding ‘cool feeds’ containing oils instead of grain, or increasing roughage is often recommended.

Whilst ‘slow feeding’ is the natural state for the horse, supplementary feeding is necessary for the modern horse, but shock/pulse feeding is, unfortunately, a function of human lifestyle and work hours.

Some concentrate feeds are ‘fast foods’ yet there are no labelling requirement for NSC levels in a feed, which is regrettable as feeding above 12% NSC and not increasing the work level may contribute to many metabolic disorders of performance horses. Careful consideration must be given to match the feed to the horse’s activity level, so as not to overfeed a high NSC feed and under work the horse. Horse owners can gain much by surfing the web, typing in keywords and following the links to reveal an amazing amount of information, and traditional thought is being challenged all the time.

Dr Tim Kempton has a degree and PhD in the basic and applied aspects of nutrition and specialises in the relationships between nutrition and performance of animals. He pioneered the concept of ‘cool feeds’ for horses in Australia with the introduction of copra meal in the 1980’s, which is now fed extensively as a cool feed. More recently, he has researched the role of NSC in horse feeds, and is committed to providing equine education and products based on sound science to avoid harming horses with kindness, through overfeeding and underworking.

For further information on this subject, visit


So Many Supplements Available: A Review

By Heather Zorn

Does my horse need this supplement?

Of course, there is no way for me to answer this question on a general scope, but what I CAN teach you to do is: Read through the marketing and hype to determine the answer for yourself and for the health of your horse!

Supplements are a leading industry seller for the equine market and manufacturers are hoping you believe the claims and buy, buy, BUY, without ever fully understanding what you are supplementing and why…

Here is one supplement targeting Insulin Resistance, which can be misdiagnosed, and is not a disease, but a metabolic anamoly requiring proper feeding techniques. There is no “cure” since it is not a disease. There is NO specific one-supplement-magic-bucket that can make a horse less Insulin Resistance. Proper protocol is a diet void of pasture, a low sugar and starch hay, proper supplementation for what is lacking in the hay, and exercise!

This is the label’s listing (please note I am going to take out the actual name/manufacturer of this and replace it “Supplement X”. There is no need to point fingers and cause upset if you are feeding this supplement. After reading this, you may find out you can save some money, learn a few things and even decide it’s not worth the investment… I am just going to review the major players in the supplement, the ingredients that comprise the majority of it. Keep in mind, there are about 20 other ingredients, but the amounts are so miniscule, even if they were beneficial, in such tiny amounts, they are not going to do any good.

Supplement X- IR is a breakthrough formula designed to help manage Insulin Resistance, a condition that is part of Equine Metabolic Syndrome, and frequently associated with obesity. This comprehensive formula supports healthy metabolic function by providing a targeted selection of ingredients, including Chromium, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Cinnamon and more. These tasty beet pulp-based pellets are perfect for horses being fed little to no grain.”

Magnesium (Oxide & Proteinate) 4,400 mg

Grape Seed Meal 3,929 mg

Taurine 1,750 mg

Fenugreek Seed 1,500 mg

Cinnamon 1,000 mg

L-Tyrosine 750 mg

Omega 6 Fatty Acids 740 mg

Acetyl L-Carnitine 425 mg

Alpha Lipoic Acid 400 mg

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 340 mg

WOW! That’s a lot of ingredients, and I’ve only listed the top 10! So, let’s work our way down the list in an orderly fashion to avoid any more confusion that what was caused by just looking over that list.

Magnesium: Anywhere you look on the internet, you will find manufacturers telling you that magnesium is the “cure” for Insulin Resistance. What they don’t tell you is that after a certain amount in the daily diet, it has a diminishing return. The first side effect of too much magnesium is diarrhea. If your hay is lacking in magnesium, by all means: ADD it! But how can you supplement by throwing it in to an unknown diet? Do you just guess? NO! Have your hay tested. It costs $26 for a full analysis.

4,400 mg is 4.4 grams and a pretty average amount to add if you are just guessing. Did you also know that magnesium is about as cheap as dirt? A 50lb bag costs about $25, which would last the average horse on a low magnesium forage about 14 years!

Grape Seed (in this form as a meal): Grape seed is used as an antioxidant. Is it helpful? Depends on your horse. Is your horse stressed out? Traveling? Ill? If you answered any of those questions with a yes, it may be worth a shot. Will it work? I don’t know, the effects haven’t been studied and researched in horses… Do you want to try it out on your horse?

Taurine: One of the amino acids, the building blocks of protein. If your hay is lacking in protein, you may need additional amino acids, however taurine is a non-essential or conditional amino acid, meaning the body can manufacture what it needs from the breakdown of the protein source. Research shows that it may have beneficial effects in clinical trials for people with congestive heart failure or liver disease. Treatment of any other condition has not been shown in people, and therefore highly unlikely for research to exist for treatment in horses. Does your horse have congestive heart failure or kidney disease? No? Then you probably don’t need the taurine, and if he does, you’re going to need a lot more than what is offered in this supplement to run your own experiment!

Fenugreek: It’s a palatable flavoring for horses, and one that is derived from an herb. I appreciate finding the use of fenugreek in supplements for horses who need limited sugar sources, rather than the alternative taste tempter, molasses.

Cinnamon: Research has shown that cinnamon can help reduce blood glucose levels in high enough doses. However, what this supplement manufacturer doesn’t realize or care about is that glucose levels are normally the issue in horses with IR. Glucose levels can test quite normally, but insulin levels are high. Cinnamon has no effect on insulin levels, and therefore should not be found in this supplement.

L-Tyrosine: Another amino acid, this one also synthesized by the body to the levels required for daily use. Unless your hay is very low in protein, L-tyrosine is most likely not needed. It is used in people to treat a fairly rare disorder called PKU where they can’t process sufficient levels and must be supplemented. Also, some antectodal evidence shows that people use it for narcolepsy, ADD, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Please tell me your horse has not been diagnosed with any of the above???

Omega 6 Fatty Acids:- Fatty acids are good, right? Not all of them are created equal. It’s Omega-3 supplementation that we want- the anti-inflammatory omegas. The omega-6’s are inflammatory and we don’t need additional inflammation! Unfortunately, the Omega-3’s are fragile and far more expensive due to the necessity of special handling, processing or refrigeration to keep them stable and effective. NO thanks on the addition of the Omega-6’s… Especially since you’ll note the amount of Omega6’s to Omega3’s is double! We ideally would like the ratio the other way around- higher Omega3’s to lower Omega6’s, as high as 4:1! I’d even settle for 2:1, but this is inverted at 1:2. Buying stabilized or cold-pressed ground flax seed is an easy and effective way to remedy this and save money.

Acetyl-L Carnitine: Another amino acid. Another non-essential, conditional amino acid that the body produces itself. I will say that it does help the body produce energy, which is great! But, is your horse lethargic, overworked and under-rested? Probably not. If so, you may want to look deeper into what is causing his lack of energy… Is it pain related? Strenuous show schedule? Other alterations need to be made before supplementing unknowingly with anything. It is used in people to improve memory in those with high alcohol intake and/or the elderly, reducing nerve pain caused by diabetes (please note that Insulin Resistance is NOT diabetes), as well as testosterone deficiency in men.

Alpha Lipoic Acid: This one I like! Finally, right? ALA is a powerful antioxidant and has more scientific research backing it than Grape Seed (which is far more plentiful in this supplement than the ALA due to a much cheaper cost). ALA can help break down carbohydrates to produce energy for the body. It can be helpful in cases of kidney disease, and overall is a pretty good thing. The levels are pretty low considering the body weight of a horse, and if you are interested in supplementing ALA, it’s probably a lot cheaper to do so individually and provide an ample dose that may actually provide some benefit. As a matter of fact, Pampered Pooch and Pony’s Canine Gold contains ALA. To give you an idea of dose, Canine Gold contains 250mg per tablespoon, which is the dose for a 50lb dog. This Supplement X-IR contains 400mg per serving for a 1000lb horse. See the difference? ALA is a fairly expensive ingredient to use in large quantities, which is why it’s listed, but the dose is low in Supplement X-IR.

The cost of this supplement works out to be $1.11 per day. Considering the above for some cheap ingredients (magnesium), which may or may not be needed in your particular diet, a few amino acids that your horse can effectively produce himself, an antioxidant, and a backward ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s. Is that worth spending $1.11 a day on?

Confused about the number of equine supplements on the market? The big manufacturers depend on this to sell their products! Remember that many of the ingredients used may or may not have ever been studied in the equine species, and oftentimes, human studies cannot be extrapolated for animal use. Consider a nutritional consultation from Pampered Pooch and Pony’s nutritionist, and have someone to answer these questions for you, as well as help you decide what supplementation your horse actually needs. At Pampered Pooch and Pony Equine & Canine Nutritional Consulting, our main objective in consulting is to educate YOU as the consumer, to make better decisions for your horse. As an educated consumer, learn to read between the lines, hype, marketing, and advertising.

Article Source:


How to Choose a Horse Boarding Facility


When choosing a boarding facility for your horse, you must first decide on the type of stabling you require. The main types are:

Full Board. Full board includes all the routine items normally required by a horse. The monthly fee covers the facilities (stall, paddock/pasture), materials (bedding, food), and labor (mucking out, feeding, keeping an eye on the horse’s health). Additional services which might be provided include: regular brushing down of the horse, periodic shower, exercising.

Partial Board. In this case the stable manager provides stall space (a box), along with paddock and/or pasture. However, caring for the horse is the responsibility of the horse owner rather than the stable manager. One needs to consider what happens if you are unable from time to time (e.g. work commitments, family crisis, away on holiday) to perform all the daily requirements. Do you need to find a friend to do these or will the stable manager do them for you? In the latter case, what are the additional fees?

Pasture Board. Pasture is simply a fenced in area. It provides food (grass) for the horses and exercise. There are normally a number of horses on each pasture, providing a social group. This is usually the least expensive type of stabling, as there are no stalls to clean and no bedding is provided. However, it is not suitable for all horses (e.g. old, sick or weak horses), especially during very hot or very cold weather.

Pasture Access and Quality

Except for short rest periods, horses generally prefer to spend as much time as possible on pasture rather than in their stalls. The amount of access they have to pasture each day and the quality of the pasture will largely determine how happy and healthy they are. When evaluating the pasture for your stabled horse, factors to consider include:

  • Quality and quantity of grass. Too little grass or poor quality grass and your horse may not have enough to eat. Alternatively, if it is too rich, your horse runs the risk of laminitis.
  • Physical Safety. The fencing should not have holes or breaks, as this could allow your horse to wander off into danger. Electrical wire is normally safer than high-tension wire (which can cut and even main your horse if he gets tangled in it) or barbed wire (which can cause injuries). The fields should be clean of any objects which could injure the horses (e.g. pieces of broken fencing wire which has been left about can tangle around a horse’s legs and cause serious injuries).
  • Maintenance. Are the fence posts solid (not rotten, not loose in the ground)? Are fence boards in good condition and without protruding nails? Is fencing wire taut (not sagging or lying on the ground)? Is the amount of horse droppings on the ground not excessive?
  • Weeds. Certain weeds are toxic to horses. Depending on the weed, it can cause immediate or long-term health issues. If the pasture is weedy, check that none of them are of a poisonous variety.
  • Size. A substantial pasture provides more mental stimulation, greater emotional satisfaction and more exercise opportunities.
  • Shelter. Is there adequate shelter on the pastures for all the horses? Note that strong horses will often bully weaker horses away from shelters, so a generous amount of shelter is required if all the horses are to benefit.
  • Drainage. Is the pasture well drained, or do pools of water form during wet weather? Standing in water can be very bad for horse hooves.
  • Other Horses. A horse is a herd animal and consequently requires the companionship of other horses. However, it is important that all the horses in a given pasture are compatible, to avoid excessive fighting or bullying.

PaddockMany stables have limited pasture access, but provide a paddock instead. Although pasture access is preferable, a good paddock can be a reasonable substitute. Factors to consider when evaluating the paddock facilities include:

  • Size. A horse will prefer a large paddock to a small one. If the horse has substantial access to pasture then the size of the paddock is much less important than the case where the horse has no access or only limited access to pasture.
  • Access. A paddock which is freely accessible to the horse (e.g. through an open door from its stall) will be of greater value to a horse than a paddock to which it has only limited access.
  • Construction. The paddock should be secure and should have a suitable surface. Most surfaces (sand, wood chips or gravel) are satisfactory for a horse with good hooves. However, a horse with hoof problems may require a softer surface (e.g. sand, wood chips).
  • Sharing. There is nothing wrong with a shared paddock, provided that all the horses get along and there is no bullying. However, if there are conflicts between the horses, individual paddocks are often more suitable.

StallIn almost all stables (unless one has opted for pasture boarding), the horse will spend a considerable amount of time in its stall and in many stables the horse will spend the majority of each day in its stall. Consequently, this aspect of your prospective stable needs to be carefully evaluated in terms of:

  • Size. The size of the stall is very important, especially if a horse spends a substantial amount of time in its stall each day. A small stall is physically uncomfortable and forces a horse to lie down in its own excrement as there is no additional place available. The minimum size for a stall is a matter of debate, but we recommend at least 3m by 3m for a standard size horse and at least 3.5m by 3.5m for a large horse.
  • Height. Are the stall doors high enough that if a horse runs in with its head up, there is no risk of injury? Are the ceilings high enough that a horse cannot hit its head?
  • Safety. Is the stall safe? Does it have any protruding nails, wood slivers or metal bits that the horse could injure itself on? Are the walls and door solid enough that a horse cannot kick through (if it can kick through, it can injure its leg, or become trapped and breaks its leg).
  • Cleaning. The stall should be clean, dry and not smell (in particular, not smell of ammonia). Stalls should be cleaned at least once per day; twice if the horse spends the majority of the day in its stall.
  • Ventilation. Does the air smell clean, or does it smell damp or musty or stale? If the stable is closed at night and opened for airing in the morning, the best time to check (if possible) is just before the stable is opened for airing as this is the time when ventilation issues will be easiest to detect.
  • Pests. Are there any indications of rodents or excessive insects in the stall areas? If so, this is an indication of problems.
  • Time. A horse which spends most of its day in the stall is receiving less physical and mental exercise than one which has substantial access to paddock and pasture. However, young horses (and very old horses) often appreciate a few hours alone in their stable each day so that they can sleep and relax in peace.
  • Bedding. The type and thickness of bedding is important to the mental and physical well-being of the horse.
  • Water. Horses should have free access to water and most stalls are equipped with drinkers for this purpose. Care should be taken that the pipes do not freeze during cold weather, depriving the horses of water.
  • Salt and Minerals. Horses require salt and minerals. These are normally provided in the stalls, although a few stable managers provide them on pasture instead.
  • Lighting. Plentiful natural light is better for your horse’s physical and emotional health. A dark stall is depressing for a horse and tends to promote unhealthy fungus and mold growth.

Food and WaterThe quality of food and water varies greatly from one stable to another. As food is one of the major costs for stable owners, the tendency is to reduce both the quality and quantity in order to make the stabling business more profitable. Points to consider:

  • Quality. What are the horses fed? Are the hay and food supplements of high quality, or just the cheapest available?
  • Quantity. Do the horses get all the food they need, or is there a quota (e.g. only 1kg of food supplement/horse/day)?
  • Frequency. How often are the horses fed? It should be at least twice a day and preferably more (access to quality pasture qualifies as a feed).
  • Water. Do the horse have adequate access to clean water
  • Buckets. Are the food and water buckets kept clean? Is old food removed each day and the buckets cleaned out well, or simply new food dropped on top?

GeneralOne needs to consider how the stable is run and how the horses are treated. Here one needs to look around at:

    • The owner/manager. He (or she) sets the standards and general tone for the stables.
      • Talk with him about his experiences with horses and with running a stable. Does he give an impression of experience, ability and dedication?
      • Ask what he thinks of your horse and what special care it might require; if the stable manager takes the time to carefully examine the horse (including hooves and teeth) before answering this is a good sign but if he replies after only a cursory examination then one may wish to go to a stable where the manager is more attentive.
      • Ask if he has any objection to using your own veterinarian and farrier. Even if you are happy to use his, one might be concerned if he does not permit other vets and farriers.
    • Horses. The appearance of the horses is a good indication of how they are treated. Are they overweight or underweight? Do they have shiny coats? Do they appear alert, active and happy? Do they appear nervous or have nervous behavior (e.g. pacing, swaying back and forth, chewing on wood)? Are they well-groomed? Pick up the hooves of a couple of horses to see it they are well maintained and appear to have been recently cleaned.
    • Stalls. Are the stalls clean and tidy? Check not only the bedding but also the drinkers, feeders, and salt/mineral trays. Do all the horses have salt and minerals?
    • General Facilities. How do the various facilities look? Do they appear clean, organized and well maintained? A lack of consideration for the facilities can be an indication of broader issues.
    • Staff Behavior. How do the staff behave around the horses. Do they appear interested in the horses? Do they talk to the horses and treat them gently, or just drag them along behind them? Do they appear mature, experience and knowledgeable (or just cheap labor, however loving and well-intentioned they may be)?
    • Other Clients. If you have the opportunity, talk to other horse owners to get their impression and experience of the stables. However, don’t put too much trust in this, as they may be friends of the stable manager or they may be novices who are not experienced enough to make a reliable judgment.
    • Local Veterinarian. Like other clients, it can be useful to ask the local veterinarian his opinion.
    • Vaccinations. Does the stable manager require vaccination against communicable diseases? If not, this may be a health risk for your horse.
    • Deworming. Are all the horses on site dewormed? Are they all dewormed at the same time? If the answer to either question is ‘no’, then the effectiveness of worming your horse may be significantly reduced.
    • Access. How much access do you have to your horse and facilities (e.g. training ring) which you may wish to use? Can you drop in unannounced to see your horse and its stall at any time, or is an appointment required (the latter is a bad sign).

Dr. Doug Stewart is the owner of Horse Care and author of articles such as Horse Boarding Facilities.

Basics Of Horse Feeding

Feeding a horse is one of the most important responsibilities of a horse owner. If not done correctly and overfeeding grain feeds a horse can develop colic, (build up of gas) it is caused as horses are unable to burp. This is very serious and in same cases can be fatal.

The Ten Rules Of Feeding

There are 10 rules to feeding horses these are –

FEED LITTLE AND OFTEN – Horses have quite small stomachs so food must be fed small amounts at frequent intervals. Ideally a horse should never go more than 8 hours without feed.

PLENTY OF BULK – To work efficiently a horses digestive system needs to be constantly filled. To achieve this feed bulk feeds such as hay and grass.

CORRECT AMOUNT AND TYPE – You can cause your horse physical and mental problems feeding too much, too little or the wrong type of feed.

GOOD QUALITY – Make sure your food isn’t past its sell by date.

MAKE NO SUDDEN CHANGES TO DIET – Introduce new feeds gradually to avoid digestive problems.

DO NOT FEED DIRECTLY BEFORE EXERCISE – A horse must be allowed at least 1 hour after a feed before he is worked. If this isn’t done a horses can develop colic and breathing problems.

ROUTINE – Horses are creatures of habit.

CLEANLINESS – Keep all utensils scrupulously clean.

A SUCCULENT EACH DAY – This is very import if the horse is not at grass. Apples, carrots and swedes add variety and provide some essential vitamins.

WATER BEFORE FEEDING – A horse can wash undigested food out of its stomach if he drinks after feeding.

Also when feeding horses there are other considerations these include –











17 hands – 34lbs

16 hands – 30lbs

15 hands – 26lbs For the horses and ponies who are half a hand or 2 inches

14 hands – 22lbs higher, an extra 2lbs is added example 13.2 hands – 20lbs,

13 hands – 18lbs

12 hands – 14lbs


A horse in light work should get 30% concentrate 70% bulk.

A horse in medium work should get 50% concentrate 50% bulk

And a horse in hard work should get 70% concentrate 30% bulk.

Most feed merchants have balanced diets for all type of horses and all types of work. So the horse owners job isn’t as hard as it used to be. Most feed merchants have dieticians so you can ask them or your vet what to feed your horse. Most compound feeds have guild lines on the back of the bag and phone numbers you can ring for help.

Always insure your horse has access to clean fresh water. A horse can drink between 10-15 gallons a day.

One last thing please remember all percentages and feed quantities are guide lines. EAch horse is an individual and will have to be closely monitored.