Over the last two decades the degree
of scientifically controlled research into equine nutrition
and feeding has increased dramatically. Research has
confirmed the importance of the forage fraction of the
ration for all horses and ponies. In common with all
higher animal species, in order to maintain health and
condition, the horse needs to receive a regular supply
of certain dietary components or nutrients. The horse
derives these nutrients from the feed ingredients in
his diet. In the wild the horse would wander many miles,
searching for grass and other herbage to supply his
daily nutrient requirements.
Many modern horses only have restricted access to pasture
and that pasture might contain only a limited number
of plant species. Thus the modern horse may not be able
to meet his total daily nutrient requirement from his
pasture. The available pasture provides sufficient levels
of some nutrients, but not of others, and thus the horse
needs to receive supplemental nutrients in the form
of concentrate feeds.
The nutrients the horse requires on a daily basis are
protein, energy, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water.
The horse, through evolutionary adaptation, which has
occurred over a period of 65 million years, has become
a 'trickle feeder'. His digestive system, with its small
stomach and very large, bacteria-filled hind gut is
designed to contend with an almost continuous intake
of grass and associated herbage.