Healthcare & Nutrition

Frequently Asked Questions

Nelson image
Do horses enjoy changes in diet?
Horses enjoy treats, but not sudden changes in their main diet. If you’ve been feeding your horse hay all winter, its first day in a fresh grass pasture might give it a belly ache. Changes in a horse’s diet should be gradual.

What kinds of treats do horses like?
Depends on the horse, but Lord Nelson will eat (or steal!) just about anything. Just don’t let your horse have too much of any one treat at one time. Two or three apples, carrots, or a handful of peppermints are plenty. Use your own human common sense – and don’t ever let Lord Nelson loose near an unguarded buffet table!

Are there some things horses shouldn’t eat?
Yes, and horses sometimes know not to eat poisonous stuff. Like tomato plants – Lord Nelson won’t touch them. Also, please don’t feed horses pits of peaches, cherries or avocados. And here’s an easy one to remember – no poison hemlock, please! For more info on bad foods (and good treats) for horses, click on the “Learn More” link: “Horse Food: The Good, the Weird and the Dangerous.”

Is my horse really an athlete?
Does your horse do performance training more than five days a week, for an hour or more? If so, congratulations – your horse is an athlete!

What does an athletic horse need most from food?
The answer is energy. Energy is provided by carbohydrate, fat, protein and/or fiber from food – but it’s mostly from carbohydrate and fat.

What common kitchen ingredient does an athletic horse need to stay healthy?
Plain salt, also known as sodium chloride, is important in keeping an athletic horse healthy. The chemicals sodium and chloride are electrolytes (elek-tro-lites), which help make muscles work, including the heart. Hays and grains are low in sodium and chloride, so extra salt should be added to the diet.

When is a horse “old?”
After about age 20, many horses begin to need special care. They may have arthritis, which is a stiffness of the joints; or lose teeth, which make it harder to eat; or have other problems with their internal organs. Then again, a horse may feel fine, even at age 37 – just like Lord Nelson. The oldest horse on record was 62 when it died in England in 1822. The truth is, just like people, a horse is only as old as it feels. Many horses in their 30s are still valued for riding or performance, or even breeding.

Why does an older horse sometimes lose weight?
There are many reasons why an older horse may lose weight. Sometimes, the owner may forget to keep up with deworming, or the horse may have an infection or kidney or liver problems. Sometimes, horses lose or damage their teeth and then may have trouble chewing and eating. And then, there is weather – older horses are more sensitive to both hot and cold weather, and they can lose weight when temperatures are extreme.

My old horse is losing its teeth. What should I feed it?
Think of things that are soft and easy to chew. No, not marshmallows! Making “soups” of various types of feeds, using soaked hay cubes and even beet pulp can help a horse with tooth problems meet its nutritional needs.

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