Because most draft horses have a much calmer nature and a slower metabolism than light horses they are apt to burn far less calories than their less bulky contemporaries. However, their large size tends to make people surmise that they must be fed more than say a typical quarter horse. This is not true in most cases. A high percentage of draft horses are actually what is known as “an easy keeper”.
Many draft horses can actually be maintained on pasture or good hay and free choice minerals alone or on the aforementioned with a bit of a ration balancer. I personally have a Friesian/Percheron cross and he eats the least out of all the horses on my farm. In warmer months he is well maintained in a 3.5 acre field with non manicured grass, a salt block and high quality, free choice loose minerals. In the winter months he gets flakes of hay added to his diet and even then he doesn’t consume a great deal to maintain his weight. The exception being on very, very cold days or wet, windy cold days when I feed him quite a bit to keep him warm.
Adult draft horses should be fed a total intake between 1.5% and 3% of their body weight daily with a minimum of 1.5% of their body weight in forage. Care must be taken not to tip the draft over into laminitis and the owner should always be watching for fat deposits, cresty necks, or a crease running along the top of the rump. For those who are often overweight or have had a laminitic attack in the past, a careful watch on sugar content should be employed. Some drafts are prone to polysaccharide storage myopathy or PSSM is a debilitating disease that drafts can be prone to. Drafts prone to PSSM will definitely need to avoid diets high in starch (though all horse breeds should stay away from starchy diets) as this will cause severe muscle pain in them, rendering them very reluctant to move.
Obesity is often a problem in the draft and extra efforts may need to be made to keep them in the right weight. Some of these methods include the use of the grazing muzzle, dry lots, track paddock systems, slow feeder hay nets, and watching what time of day a draft is put to pasture. Exercise is always the draft horse’s friend and ideally a draft is made to work with some energy at least a half hour per day.
Draft horses also typically consume much more water than their light cousins do, with some drinking up to 24 gallons per day. Because people do not take this into consideration they are often prone to colic episodes or tying up. Please make sure your big guy has access to Plenty of fresh, clean water.
People tend to be of the opinion that draft horses cannot be maintained barefoot however that is simply not true. When their nutritional needs are not met correctly, they tend to have very brittle and fragile pancake feed with weak hoof walls. With this type of foot it is hard to maintain soundness without a shoe. But draft horses who are on the correct type of diet and minerals can and do run around barefoot and have nice shiny, hard hooves. Of course no horse will have a healthy hoof if it stands around in a stall 22 hours per day or in a constant muddy place. Do keep in mind that they draft hoof has a lot less concavity and has a different general shape than they light horse.
(barefoot Belgian hoof pictured)
With some extra knowledge and care your draft horse can be maintained in a lovely and healthy manner! If you have always had light horses before, it may just take a little extra research and effort on your part.
This article helps Heart of Phoenix To grow a community of knowledgeable, rational advocates, HORSE People and potential adopters who make great homes for horses in transition looking for their new homes As partners of the #RIGHTHORSE, we want to spread the word about partnership, good horse care and equine adoption.