western way of life is alive and well in Montana. That was
evident at the recent Miles City Bucking Horse Sale where —
every year for the past 66 years — top cowboys and horses
challenge one another in events from saddle bronc riding to
be outdone in the festivities was a women’s riding group,
the Bozeman (Montana) Saddle-ites. Their mission? To promote
western heritage. Good job, ladies.
amazed at the physical condition of these athletes — horses
as well as humans. What do you feed your horses? I asked Ralph
Young, a top breeder of racing Quarter horses in Columbus,
quality hay, a few supplemental vitamins and minerals and
plenty of fresh water," he said. Like people, he
explained, a horse off his feed does not perform well. And the
similarities don’t end there, I learned.
humans, baby horses are usually ready for food other than mom’s
milk at the age of 4 to 6 months. And they need high quality
food that provides protein and calcium for muscle and skeletal
development. Because they are growing so rapidly, young ones
need nutrient-dense diets — foods that pack a load of
nutrition in every bite.
horses are indeed young athletes. Many start racing when they
are two years old (equivalent to a 19 year-old human). And,
like people, horses have different nutritional needs at each
stage of life. Pregnant females, for example, have higher
energy (calorie) needs than older mares out to pasture.
— plant material such as leaves and stems (aka
"vegetables" in human-eze) — is the cornerstone of
horse diets as well as those of healthy people. And horses,
like people, do better by eating small meals throughout the
day rather than one or two large meals, say animal science
experts. That’s because horses and people have relatively
small stomachs in relation to the amount of food they consume
in one day.
to humans, the biggest nutritional problem for horses that are
only exercised occasionally is overfeeding — too many
calories for the amount of energy expended. Horses, like other
species we know, get fat when too much palatable feed is
available; the yummier the food, the more we will eat, say
use a body conditioning score of 1 (extremely thin) to 9
(extremely fat) to determine if a horse is in good shape. A
middle score of 5 indicates a healthy body type; you can feel
but cannot see the ribs of these animals. Horses that score a
6 have a small reserve of fat for cold winter nights. With
increasing fatness, however, there is no advantage to health,
say experts of horses as well as humans.
here from New York?" the announcer boomed to the crowd at
the end of this three-day Montana extravaganza. "Welcome