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Salt, Mineral Blocks, Protein-added Blocks...
Salt, Mineral Blocks, Protein-added Blocks...

CARE AND FEEDING OF HORSES IN HOT WEATHER

Summer and the intense heat we have been experiencing can present some challenging situations for the horses and their servants, us.  How the horses are housed dictates different management.  The horses outside are always the most trouble-free and will take care of their own needs.  The stalled horse is totally dependent on us to provide every basic need, from food and water to protection from the heat.

The horses running on pasture should have free choice water available.  While a clean source of cool water appeals to us, research has shown the horse has no such hangups.  So a pond from which they can safely drink will provide the water most horses need.

A well established stand of grass will provide most or all of the nutritional needs for most horses.  If the condition of your horse is as I suspect, the grain can be saved to be used as a treat or reward.

If your horse does need supplemented with grain or a high quality hay, the amount may need to be increased as the summer progresses.  The quality of pastures will decrease rapidly as the temperature rises and the moisture decreases.  The nutritional content will decrease and the fiber increases.

This can be good news for horses confined to a dry lot to prevent them from foundering on the lush spring grasses.  The heavy horses can be turned out on pasture when it turns brown.  On the day they go out, they should first be fed the daily feeding of the dry coarse hay you have been feeding them for the last three months.  Being full of hay will prevent gorging on any grass they find appetizing, and it will dilute what they do eat while their intestines become accustomed to the new food.   Of course when the fall rains start, it is back to the dry pen for the heavy horse; unless you have ridden them enough during the summer to reduce their weight a couple hundred pounds.

The pasture horses need to have salt and mineral available free choice.  These should be mixed together.  Without the salt, until their deficiency becomes pretty bad, there is little incentive to eat the mineral.  If there are several horses in the same pasture, a loose trace mineral salt may be needed to allow all of them equal access.  In most situations a trace mineral block will do very well.  It is easy to provide and does not need to be protected from the rain.  The horses cannot consume mineral from the block as rapidly as when the mix is provided in the loose form.  Most horses be able to juggle summer schedules, so that they will have plenty of time for licking the mineral block!

There are also available mineral blocks with added protein.  They have a molasses base and are softer than the red trace mineral block.   They may be indicated when the horses are thin, have plenty of low quality forage, and for whatever reason it is not practical to feed them individually each day.  The extra protein will help with digestion of the low quality grass and provide the amino acids the body needs as building blocks.

However, you will quickly notice how delicious these blocks are, either by licking your fingers after handling or watching the horse devour them over night.  The attraction is the molasses, a fact not overlooked by the manufacturer.  I suppose a horse could consume too many minerals from this source, but the check book usually limits the number of blocks provided.

A little on shade, and a great deal on caring for the stalled horse next week.

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