Worn, missing or badly spaced teeth prevent forage being chewed properly & “chewed” hay for example is deposited as quids below the haynet, & there is undigested material in the droppings.
It is therefore essential to maintain a daily dry fibre intake of at least 1.5% of bodyweight to maintain healthy gut function. A 500kg horse will require at least 7.5kg of hay, & could eat 10 – 12kg per day – half a standard small bale.
Some forage will doubtless be swallowed, but if not well chewed will be of reduced nutritive value. It is therefore necessary to provide forage in an easily eaten & digestible form.
There is a wide variety of forages available, some as bales or bags of chopped fibre, and pellets & bricks. Typical ingredient are chopped alfalfa, dried grass, hay, & oat & wheat & barley straw.
These may have additional ingredients for enhancing palatability & energy, as well as suppressing dust & binding pellets, e.g. molassess, soya & rapeseed oils, flavours such as apple, mint & fennel, & limestone, & pellet binders.
Long fibre products need to be chopped short – no more than an inch or so – to be edible, and are required to prolong chewing to stimulate saliva production.
Grass, & possibly alfalfa, pellets should form a substantial part of the diet as they will supply much of the horse’s dietary needs.
Soaked sugar beet should be included unless the horse is suffering Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Cushings, Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, or otherwise prone to laminitis. It is very palatable & its fibre highly digestible. It can be fed up to 30 – 40% of the horse’s daily – dry weight – food intake. If prone to these problems then a low-sugar product such as SpeediBeet should be used.
If a horse is prone to the above problems it may be necessary to limit the grass intake, as this could otherwise provide too much sugar. Some of the grass nuts could be replaced with oat-feed pellets (the outer high fibre husk of the oat grain, with a very low starch & sugar content) or short-chop oat chaff.
As horses are trickle feeders those with teeth problems will require feeding several times a day, as early & late as possible, with hay, straw or grazing available in between to allow the horse to satisfy its desire to eat.
If the horse is underweight then extra nutrients can be added to the feeds to restore condition. These can include ordinary horse & pony nuts & mixes through to a range of balancers & mashes, all of which will require a degree of soaking to make them palatable. Straight feeds such as linseed, soya & copra plus a mineral & vitamin supplement can be added to a base of short-chop fibre & grass &/or alfalfa pellets.
Feeds should be fed wet, for ease of consumption, & prepared in advance to allow the hard components to be softened. If teeth are sensitive to cold water, e.g. in the winter, it should be warmed first, otherwise intake may be restricted
Gravenhorse Feeds has a range of products suitable for horses with impaired dentition & in particular recommends Horseheath AntiLam to provide basic nutrients plus grass &/or alfalfa pellets & beet pulp. Johnson’s Traditional Oat/Alfalfa chaff can also be used to provide extra fibre.
The increasing cost of transport makes long-distance deliveries prohibitively expensive. Products such as linseed, soya & copra plus supplements & balancers such as Lam-E Balancer™ Hors-E-Vit™ & Lamvit™ can be sent by courier & bulky products obtained locally.
For for advice for an individual horse complete the Nutrition Enquiry Form for the author to appraise.