Horse Forage Testing

Horse forage testing will ensure the best possible nutrition for your horse.

Forages supply energy, crude protein, minerals, and vitamins at varying levels, depending on forage species and its nutritional value. Forages are classified as legumes or grasses. The nutrients in the forage vary, depending on the maturity of the grasses, fertilization, management, and environmental conditions.

Clover and alfalfa are classified as legumes. They are usually higher in protein, calcium, and energy than grasses and require warm weather and good soil for the best nutritional value.

Hay is dried forage. It is harvested, dried and baled. Legume hay can contain 2-3 times more protein and calcium than grass hay. Common grass hays include timothy, brome and orchard grass. Read more aboutchoosing quality hay and testing horse hay.

Thorough analysis is the only way to accurately evaluate your horse’s ration, allowing you to adjust both feed and forage for a healthy, balanced diet. Better nutrition means better health, stronger performance and longer life!
Equi-analytical Laboratories specializes in the most modern techniques for determining the nutrient content of forages and feeds for horse owners. Because forage makes up at least 50% of a horse’s diet, knowing it’s nutritional make-up is essential for creating an optimum total feeding program.

Horse Feed Considerations

Horse feed includes pasture, prepared feeds (grain and hay), pelleted feeds and protein. Additionally, horses may need salt, supplements, trace minerals and vitamins.

Feed and nutrition influence your horse’s health and longevity. Because she only has one stomach and a cecum, your horse needs to be fed so that her simple digestive system is not overwhelmed, causing a dangerous colic.

But how?

Consider her activity level. Is your horse a working horse? Or does she lead a more leisurely life? Some horses are “easy keepers”, requiring less food than a similarly active horse. A working horse needs more hay and possibly a sweet or pelleted feed, too.

Some horses benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements. Horses need minerals to maintain health. Grasses and grain contain minerals, butsupplements may be needed in your area. Consult your veterinarian or local agricultural extension for more information.

How old is your horse? Older horses may benefit from supplements. If she’s much older, she may need softer food.
Is she prone to colic? As a grazing animal, your horse’s digestive system is not geared to take in large amounts of food at one time. Download our free, four page Colic Preparedness Report for helpful information on this frighteningly common condition.

Watch her weight. Don’t overfeed your horse. Anoverweight horse is prone to a variety of equine ailments.

Ideally, rations should be weighed rather than measured. Hay bales vary in weight and grains have different weight densities. Weigh your feed mixture to see how much a standard measure of that feed weighs then calculate the volume of that specific mix to supply what your horse needs.

Water is essential for digestion and metabolism. Be sure that your horse has access to clean water. Equine water needs vary depending upon temperature, activity and condition, but the minimum is at least ten gallons per day.

Fly Masks: Non Toxic Insect Protection

Flies and gnats can torment your horse. One way to provide relief is with fly masks.

OK, they might look a little silly but your horse won’t care. He’ll just be glad his eyes, ears and tender skin are no longer under attack from face flies, biting flies and gnats.

Many riders reach for the fly repellent to keep these enemies at bay, but fly repellents wear off, can be toxic and can’t be applied too close to the eyes. The answer? The fly mask.

If properly fitted and maintained, these products will:

• Protect your horse’s eyes, ears and skin from biting bugs
• Allow him to see
• Protect his eyes and skin from the sun’s UV rays
• Be comfortable and allow him to graze

For the best fit, you’ll need several measurements:

1. Measure between the ears to mid face.
2. Measure between the side of the ears to mid face.
3. Measure around mid fact to mid jowl.
4. Measure around the neck, 2″ behind the ears to mid jowl.
5. Measure side to side across the brow, 2″ below the ears.

Armed with these measurements, you should be able to get a great fit. If you can afford it, buy two fly masks so you always have a clean one handy.

Check these fit points to make sure your mask is effective:

Eyes: The most important fit point. If the mask fits too closely, the mesh can abrade the eyeball. Not fun. The fabric should stand away from the eye and eyelashes. After you’ve got the whole mask in place, check the eye area from all angles. Be sure the stand-off is adequate when your horse lifts and lowers his head, too.

Muzzle: The mask’s lower edge should be long enough to keep flies out. It should extend below his cheekbone. Be sure it doesn’t rest directly on the cheekbone, either. That could cause rubbing.

You should be able to slip your finger easily between the mask and your horse’s muzzle. A good mask may have elastic along the bottom to allow for jaw movement.

Throatlatch: There should be enough room here so that your horse can lift his head comfortably; no chafing or binding. Two or three finger-widths between mask and throatlatch is good.

Ears: Be sure the ear holes are aligned with your horse’s ears. A bad fit here (spaced too close or too wide) will cause rubbing.

Keep the mask clean and well maintained. Wash it every day if it needs it. A dirty mask will be dusty and irritating to the eyes and skin.

Be sure the mask is in good shape with not rips or tears.

Fly masks are available in many shapes, sizes and colors. They are a great, non-toxic weapon against flies and gnats.

Farm Tractors

Do you dream about farm tractors? It’s a beautiful day, you’re perched on top of a reliable tractor, rolling across a well groomed pasture…maybe you’re even wearing a silly hat.

Maybe your tractor dreams lean a bit more towards the practical; you want to plant and maintain pasture, dig postholes, stretch fencing, move manure, bale hay, plow snow and do some light earth moving. Let’s look at your options.

The two most common types of farm tractors are the “utility” tractors and the “general purpose” tractors.
Utility farm tractors are designed for pulling and powering implements such as hay mowers, balers, disk harrows, and trailers that are attached to either a hitch or a lifting mechanism at the rear of the tractor.

The general-purpose tractor has additional features that are designed to care for row crops. If you’re not caring for crops, the added features of the general purpose tractor are probably not required.


Bigger is not always better. Consider where you will be using your tractor. Will it fit through your gates? If you have a lot of tight maneuvering to do, a smaller machine can save you more time than a larger one. You want to buy a tractor with enough horsepower to do the work needed, but buying more horsepower than you need will cost more in fuel, it will have a greater impact on the environment, and it will increase soil compaction.

Used or New?

Though more expensive, new equipment will come with warranties and possibly more favorable financing. They may be more reliable and parts will be easier to obtain. If selected carefully, however, used equipment can be a very cost effective choice.

Fuel Considerations

Almost all farm tractors available today are powered by either gasoline or diesel engines.
The engine in a gasoline-fueled tractor is basically the same as those found in most cars. Most tractors have relatively low horsepower ratings but because they run at a lower RPM, a 20- to 30-HP machine will be able to handle all your chores.

A diesel-engined tractor costs more initially, but may end up being less expensive to operate. A typical diesel tractor will outpull and often outlast a gas powered machine of the same size. Be aware, also, that diesel tractors can be hard to start on cold mornings. Heat plugs (which warm the cylinders and help cold starts) are available on new models and can often be installed on older models.


Tractors with a narrow front end are less expensive, but more prone to rollover. While ROPS (Roll Over Protection Systems) can be added, they are costly and may negate any savings.

Standard or Live PTO

The power takeoff unit (PTO) is used to power attachments like hay balers and mowers. There are two types of PTO, standard and live. Live is more versitile since it can be operated when the tractor isn’t moving. A standard unit will only work while the tractor is in motion (or in neutral) with the clutch engaged. If you’re buying a used tractor of either type, be sure the PTO stops completely when it’s disengaged. If the shaft keeps rotating, the PTO gear is probably worn.


Older tractors (pre-1950) will probably feature spring lifts, while newer tractors are pump-driven hydraulic.
When buying used, check the hydraulic system very carefully for leaks. Also try to lift something heavy. If the unit jerks or slips, it may be low on oil which could indicate leaks or poor maintenance. If the oil level is ok, the system is probably badly worn.

Other tips for buying used:

Check the tires. Tires can be surprisingly expensive!

Start the tractor up, drive it around. Put is through its paces and listen for any unusual noises.
Consider buying all of the accessories offered with the tractor. Some of these accessories may be difficult to find later.

When considering a small utility tractor with front end bucket loader, look closely at the transmission and clutch as well as the front axles and tires.

If the manufacturer has gone out of business, it may be hard to get parts.

There are other options available if you prefer not to purchase a tractor:

Rent: Most equipment can be rented and many places will deliver and pick up the equipment.Hire: Haying and pasture cutting can be contracted out. Sharing: If rental fees or contractors are more than you can afford, consider sharing costs with neighbors who have other small jobs.Borrowing: This only works if you return the equipment in better condition than when your received it: clean and filled with gas!Bartering: Exchange a service you can perform in exchange for tractor time.

Buying a farm tractor is a big purchase. But with the right information and a knowledge of your needs, you’ll make a great choice.

Equine Water Needs

Equine water needs vary. On average, a mature horse at rest will need between 10 and 12 gallons of water per day depending on environmental and/or physiological conditions.

Factors that increase your horse’s water needs include:

Pregnancy: 10% more
Lactation: 50-70% more
Hard work or profuse sweating: double their daily needs
Hot weather: up to double their daily needs

Other factors that will increase equine water needs include fever, injuries involving blood loss and diet (green grass requiring less water than hay).

Among its many roles, water helps control temperature, assists digestion and regulates the nervous system. Dehydration is a general condition that affects these body functions.

Inadequate water supply and/or excessive water loss cause horse dehydration. Some common situations include:
Tainted water: Keep stock tanks clean at all times.

Frozen water: Maintain water temperature between 45° to 65ºF (7° to 18ºC), because horses will be reluctant to drink water that is too hot or too cold.

Mechanical problems: jaw or dental problems, throat obstructions/choking or tetanus.
Diarrhea: Consider adding electrolytes to your horse’s feed or water.

Profuse sweating: Before and during prolonged exercise, encourage your horse to drink as much water as possible. After exercise, let her cool down before drinking or having free access to water.

If you think your horse is dehydrated, pinch the skin in the middle of the horse’s neck and pull it gently from the underlying tissue. Upon release, it should almost immediately snap back into its original position. Skin that takes 2 to 5 seconds to get back in place indicates mild dehydration. Skin that retains its puckered state for 10 to 15 seconds indicates severe dehydration.

The capillary refill test can be performed by pressing on your horse’s gum. In a dehydrated horse, refill time will be longer than two seconds. For more information on the capillary refill test, please read our Colic Preparedness Report. The test is explained in the Vital Signs section of the report.

Outward symptoms of dehydration that can be seen without actually touching the horse are sunken eyes and a tucked up appearance in the flank.

Equine water needs will vary according to activity, condition and season, so keep an eye on her water consumption. If you think she’s not drinking enough, try these simple steps to increase your horse’s water consumption to ensure her best health.

Avoid Grass Clippings

Do not feed grass clippings to your horse. If you collect and compost lawn clippings, be sure the pile is out of reach of your horses. Here’s why:

Wet, green lawn clippings that have been left in a mower bag or in an exposed pile will start to mildew and ferment quickly. This can cause serious gastric problems in your horse’s gut, leading to a bout of colic.

Laminitis might be a risk too, particularly for horses with other risk factors like insulin resistance.

There’s also the possibility that the clippings contain lawn chemicals that are not suitable for ingestion. Toxic ornamental plants like yew or oleander can also be mixed in lawn clippings.

In addition, lawn clippings have a tendency to clump together in damp wads. A hungry horse may take a big mouthful and end up with a wad of hay stuck in its esophagus.

It’s ok, however, to leave clippings on your pasture after a mow. The clippings will dry out quickly when exposed to sun and air and they won’t accumulate in big piles. Horses can safely consume dry, well-distributed clippings along with pasture grass.

The Horse Cribbing Habit

Horse cribbing is an obsessive compulsive behavior. Your horse will bite down on a stationary object, arch his neck, pull backwards, swallow air and grunt.

Cribbing causes a release of endorphins which stimulates the pleasure center of your horse’s brain. This is why it is such an addictive habit…and so hard to break. But cribbing can lead to poor digestion, equine colic and dental problems.

Why Do Horses Crib?

There is no definitive answer, but it’s thought that horses crib due to an inherited susceptibility to stress, improper diet or feeding practices or boredom.

Limiting a horse’s ability to graze can cause stress but not all horses crib under these and other stressful conditions. A genetic tendency towards stress may explain the difference.

Many cribbers are fed concentrated, high-energy rations which they consume quickly, leaving them with lots of energy, but little to do. Horses raised on pasture, grazing continually on high-fiber, low-energy feed, are less likely to develop these habits.

In the wild, horses keep themselves occupied by wandering and grazing. The domesticated horse, stabled and scheduled, may satisfy his grazing instincts and alleviate boredom by substitute behaviors such as horse cribbing. Behaviors become repetitive and may continue after the the stress or boredom is relieved.

Summer Horse Care Tips

Summer horse care seems like breeze. A beautiful summer day and your horse is outside. No worries, right? Maybe not. Horses can overheat easily, and if left in a field without shade they are subject to a variety of sun-related problems.

Horses with sparse hair and light colored hair and skin are more likely to get sun related diseases. Sunburn is as uncomfortable for horses as it is for you, and it can lead to skin cancers. You could try slathering your horse with sunscreen or outfitting him in a sun suit, but I think you can imagine how successful either of those choices might be. Better to provide a barn or large shade tree.

Another potentially serious skin condition is photosensitization. It looks like sunburn but is usually caused by a reaction to something that the horse has eaten. The skin problem doesn’t appear until the horse is exposed to sunlight. The skin can become crusty then die and slough away. Certain plants (St. John’s wort, buckwheat, burr trefoil, perennial rye grass) and commonly used drugs (the antibiotics trimethoprim sulfa and tetracyclines) can cause photosensitization.

Removing the horse from the sun is mandatory. Diet changes to eliminate any legume forage (grazing or hay) are essential. Recovery can be slow if the damage is extensive. Care includes bathing and cleaning the affected areas with topical antibiotic or antiseptic ointments.

Access to clean, fresh water is important at all times, but critical in very hot weather. Like us, horses control their temperature through sweating. But sweating leads to dehydration if the water and minerals aren’t replaced. So provide plenty of fresh, clean water.

You can also turn horses out only in the evening, keeping them stabled in the day during summer. This minimizes their exposure to blazing sun and flies. Of course, this assumes that your stable is cool and well ventilated. If you find it insufferably hot inside the stable, chances are your horse will, too.

You know how important it is to take care of your skin in the summer sun. The same is true for your horse!

Reduce Equine Heat Stress

There are four ways to decrease the risk of equine heat stress.

Increase ventilation

Open the windows and doors. Low tech, but it works!

Add fans if it can be done safely. Do not run extension cords or place a fan within reach of your horse’s curious mouth. There are fans with misting attachments that can lower the temperature by up to 10 degrees. These aren’t as effective in high humidity conditions.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

An idle horse needs at least 10 gallons of fresh, drinkable water each day. As the temperatures rise or the horse’s activity increases, consumption can increase to 20 or 25 gallons per day. Be sure your buckets are clean, in good condition and tip-proof. A funky, leaky or tipped-over bucket is a quick way to decease water consumption.

Offer plenty of fresh water. If your horse doesn’t seem to be drinking enough, there are some ways to increase his consumption. Tempt your horse with these techniques:

Soak hay before feeding toincrease its hydrating capability. One wet-down flake of hay can absorb 1-2 gallons of water. If you feed your horse well-soaked hay, you can make a real impact on his fluid consumption.
Try feeding some watery fruits like watermelon.

If you’re traveling with your horse, try to offer water in a quiet area, where he will not be disturbed by all the newness around him.

Some horses don’t like “different” water. If you can bring enough water from home, do so. If not, try to add a little apple juice, sugar beet water or apple cider vinegar to the water a few days prior to travel. It may help to disguise the “new” flavor.

Adjust and supplement rations

In hot weather, harder working animals should be given supplemental electrolytes. Serious electrolyte and fluid loss can result in a variety of health problems, such as fatigue, muscle cramps, and colic. Equine electrolyte supplements can also be given in the horse’s feed.

Improve fitness

Heat tolerance improves with increased fitness. Conditioning builds the circulatory and respiratory systems so the horse can cope with the additional stresses of heat during exercise.

Use common sense during the hottest days of summer. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of equine heat stress and take steps to keep your horse cool, comfortable and safe.

New Horse Introduction Preparations

Kicking. Biting. Bullies. Grade school? No. Horse pasture. Get ready for a new horse introduction by following these simple steps.

Herd Dynamics:

Watch your horses. Study the ‘pecking order’ so you can predict who might be a trouble-maker and who will be the least aggressive. Keep an eye on the lower-level horses who might be looking to climb the equine social ladder. They can be surprisingly aggressive.

Food And Shelter:

If your horses are kept in a stable, it will need to be roomy enough for everyone.
Block off any sheds that may trap a newcomer.

If you feed in the field, feeding stations should be at least 20′ apart.
Let the most dominant horse pick her feeding spot first.


If your fence has square corners, place boards across the corners. This prevents trapping and lets a horse continue his flight around the pasture without slowing. Secure the boards no further than three feet from the existing corners so a curious horse can’t slip under and get stuck in the triangular area.

Other tips:

Pull the hind shoes from aggressive horses to reduce the risk of a kick injury. You’ll want to do the same for the newcomer when he arrives.

Walk around your pasture and think about a panicky, running horse. Look for low-hanging tree limbs, splintered fence boards, parked tractors or harrows…anything that can cause an injury. Horse pasture safety benefitsall your horses, not just the new guy.

Horses like stability. Introducing a new member is stressful to the whole herd (people included). Preparation will go a long way towards a successful introduction.