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Horse Articles :: Conditioning and Feeding Horses

Conditioning and Feeding Horses

Horses confined in stables are being kept under artificial conditions, and in consequence skill is required to maintain them in good health. Living under natural conditions the horse eats grass; he eats for a very considerable number of hours each day and during the night; he feeds in small quantities at frequent intervals, and he drinks whenever he feels inclined. He has a very small stomach for his size. These facts should be borne in mind when horses are in the stable, and the less the natural conditions are disturbed the better.

Horses intended for hunting during the season should be brought in from grass during July or, at the latest, August. During July the grass begins to lack the nutritive qualities which it had in May and June, and the horse will come up in less soft condition if he has been given a feed of 5 lb. oats daily the last few weeks at grass. This extra condition is due partly to the hard food and partly to the fact that the oats give the horse more energy and that he therefore takes more exercise on his own.

Great care must be taken when the horse is brought in that he does not take cold and start coughing. During the first week in the stable he should not be made to sweat, and the door of the stable should be kept open night and day to give all possible air. Nothing is more likely to start a cough than a stuffy stable.

During the first week in the stable the horse should be given damp bran and hay with little or no oats. The change from grass to dry food is likely to cause indigestion and diarrhea. If at the end of the first week the diarrhea persists, the horse should be given bran mashes for twenty-four hours, and then physicked with an aloes ball or 1 1/2 pints of linseed oil. If the horse comes up from grass in poor condition, worms should be suspected, and he should be treated accordingly.

When the horse has got well over the physic the oat ration may be raised gradually as the exercise is increased. Plenty of walking exercise is essential at this time, and the owner need have no fear of giving too much of it. The horse when out at grass takes slow exercise during the larger part of the twenty-four hours in a day, and is better for plenty of slow exercise when stabled. He probably enjoys it as confinement is unnatural.

The longer that slow work is continued the better for the horse. Fast exercise when in gross condition is liable to affect a horse's wind, damage his legs and work irreparable harm.

As the horse becomes fit slow trotting exercise should be given and steady trots uphill are excellent for muscling up the quarters. With this exercise about 8-10 lb. of oats a day should be sufficient with 2 lb. of damp bran added and about 14 lb. of hay. The corn should be given in three feeds, a little of the hay given after exercise and the bulk of the hay last thing at night.

If this treatment has been followed your horse should be in first-rate condition when he is called upon for fast work at the end of the cubbing season. He will require about 14 lb. of oats, 2 lb. bran and 12 lb. of hay daily. The quantity of corn should be varied with the work that is being expected from him, his size and his appetite. The food should be given in at least three feeds a day and may with great advantage be divided into four meals.

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