Add Some Sparkle With Natural Benefits

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Semi precious crystals have been selected for the natural energies they can bring to enhance horsemanship. For your horse headcollar / bridle decorations and for you jewellery. Click here for more information.

Inspirational Horsemanship

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Vicki Jayne Maris BA Hons set up and is the managing director of the National Horse and Pony Network. She is a nationally recognised specialist in horsemanship, confidence building, bitless bridles, equine behaviour and performance coaching. To find out more about her horsemanship tutoring services please click here.  

Confidence Building

Don't let a lack of confidence hold you back from achieving your equine dreams. Click here to go to the shop to purchase the on-line Confidence Building for Horse and Rider e-book. ONLY £1.99. You can use this to compliment lessons with your instructor.  

The Feed Room

 This section of the site covers the following topics:- 

To tell a friend about this website click here. It is FREE to join the National Horse and Pony Network. To find out more about all the benefits and to join click here

Looking for FREE expert advice on feeding your horse or pony?

Feedmark offer FREE nutritional advice (not just supplements but any feeding concerns or information) on a Freephone number 0800 585525 or go to and click on nutritional advice to email a question. Dr. Stephanie Wood, Feedmark’s Senior Nutritionist has a wealth of experience on equine nutrition and physiology and has presented nutrition research at international conferences.

Clean fresh water
Clean fresh water must be available all the time. A horse can drink 20 to 40 litres a day depending on climate conditions, the moisture content of his food and his work load. Horses can be fussy about drinking water and will not drink if the water has a taint or it is stale. Therefore it is essential that water buckets, drinkers and water troughs are regularly kept clean by scrubbing, emptied and refilled with fresh water. A lack of clean fresh water can have serious health implications for a horse very quickly. Therefore it is good practice to check your horse’s water twice a day and ensure that the water buckets are emptied scrubbed and refilled with fresh water.
There are serious safety considerations with supply of water these include:-
In the field natural water supplies streams and ponds can become tainted or carry disease. They can dry up in the summer or become stagnant. In the winter they can freeze up and access can become muddy and dangerous. Horses have been known to become stuck in ponds and streams and some are not lucky enough to survive. Water containers need to be safe – e.g. old baths can cause dreadful injuries as horses can catch themselves on edges or get hooked up by their head collar or rug.
The yard water supply needs to be well maintained. Water taps need to be lagged to prevent freezing. The taps need to be sited near a drain and excess spilt water swept away. Hoses need to be stored correctly when not is use.
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Weight management
Bodily condition should be noted and monitored, a horse should neither be fat or thin. It is good practice to condition score horses and to use a tape measure to monitor its’ weight. A thick winter coat can hide a loss of condition, it is essential to not only look but to feel. Condition scoring is about assessing the amount of body fat. The scale used is from 0 to 5.
0= emaciated
1 = poor
2 = fair
3 = good
4 = fat 
5 = very obese.
To condition score a horse you need to look at 3 areas the neck, the barrell (rib cage and back) and the pelvis. To calculate the overall condition score of your horse you would score each area separately and then work out the average. This method along with using a weightape and adjusting the horse’s diet will help ensure your horse maintains a healthy weight. To find out more about condition scoring and to download The International League for the Protection of Horses fat scoring podcast please click here to visit the ILPH website and follow the instructions. For more information about the ILPH Right Weight Road Show or to arrange for the team to come to your yard, contact Samantha Lewis on 01953 497217.
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Horses and ponies have evolved as trickle feeders spending up to 16 hours a day grazing on a forage diet. The forage we provide must be suitable for each horse. This forage includes the grazing we provide. Sadly most grazing made available for horses is too rich and packed full of calories. A native pony, a cob or good doer may need to have their grazing restricted or they will become overweight very quickly which can cause a number very serious health problems e.g. laminitis. There are many methods you can use in restricting grazing and you may need to use more than one to be successful. Here are a few examples of how to restrict grazing:–
  • Use electric fencing to sub-divide the paddock
  • Stable your horse for part of the day
  • Use a grazing muzzle – there are many designs available
You also need to consider the composition of grass changes during the year. Here are a few examples:-
  • During spring and autumn grass can be high in nutrients and lower in fibre.
  • Longer mature grass has lower nutrient value.
  • During the winter months grass growth slows and stops.
  • How your paddock is managed and maintained will affect the feed value of the grass it produces. A horse on lush grazing will be getting more calories than a horse turned out on poor pasture. To find out more about how to manage your paddock click here.

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Horses are trickle feeders and require a diet that contains roughage. Most horses will require their grazing forage to be supplemented or replaced with hay / haylage or straw at some times during the year. The feed value of hay and haylage can vary depending on the time of the year it was made, how well it was made, species of grass it contains and how well it has been stored. You need to ensure the hay / haylage / straw you feed is sourced from a supplier who will guarantee it is free from poisonous plants e.g. ragwort. Good hay / haylage / straw should be free from moulds, smell sweet and be clean. It is good practice to soak hay before feeding to reduce dust. Only well made quality forage should be purchased. Improperly made or spoilt forage can be very hazardous to your horse’s health. Never feed mouldy or spoilt forage. Oat and barley straw can be as nutritious as low quality hay, and it makes an excellent choice of forage for native ponies and good doers. Correct storage of your hay / haylage / straw is essential in maintaining it in good condition, spoilt hay / haylage / straw is potentially very dangerous to feed. Hay and straw needs to be stored under cover in a dry well ventilated area. It is good practice to store off the floor on a pallet to ensure air circulation. Haylage is wrapped in plastic and can be stored outside. It is essential that the plastic wrapper is not damaged as this will cause the haylage to spoil. The storage area should be kept clean and tidy and provision should be made for the disposal of string and wrappers. Making sure your horse is fed good quality forage is very important. You need to purchase from a reliable merchant or farmer. If you can recommend a local supplier why not share this with the network, click here to tell us and we can produce a directory with recommended suppliers listed. There are alternatives to hay / haylage / straw available. They are more expensive but have the advantage of being dust free, clean, nutritional value known and for older horses easier to eat. There are many on the market and coming soon will be links to websites for you to find out more.

Hay & Steaming Hay


Hay is undoubtedly the ideal forage for horses.  Here the experts at HAYGAIN hay steamers share their advice on purchasing hay, taking into consideration the quality of the hay and how to store it correctly to retain its nutritional content throughout the year.  

Know your hay The quality of hay depends on the value of the crop, determined by the weather and maintenance of the grass before harvest.  Hay making must be done during warm dry weather and ideally cut in the afternoon.  Once cut, the grass must be given sufficient time to dry, to remove moisture before baling.   The healthier and drier the crop, the better the hay.    

What to look for When looking for high-quality hay, knowing what is inside counts.  Before buying hay, open at least one bale up and look inside.  Slight discolouration isn’t a problem; this often occurs with stacked hay.  Obvious signs of bad hay are warmth, extreme sun bleaching, mould, dust, fermentation or abnormal heaviness.  Avoid hay that contains weeds, dirt, insects or rubbish. Look at the texture of the hay; it should be fine-stemmed, green, leafy and soft. Good hay should smell sweet; poor hay often smells musty. Try to feed the hay within the year of its harvest, to ensure it still retains its nutritional value.   

How to store hay Storage is vital to ensure hay remains top quality.  Hay should be stored in hay sheds and barns that offer complete protection from wind, rain, snow and sun. Store areas must be cleaned out before new hay is stacked in.  If old hay dust is left, mouldy spores can mix with the new clean forage.  Old hay should be kept separate from new bales. Unless the floor of the barn has a waterproof membrane (concrete), bales should be raised off the ground to avoid moisture rising through floor.  

Once baled, the hay is still drying so it’s crucial to keep it well ventilated; leaving the bales out in the field to develop for a couple of days, if sunny, can be beneficial. There are generally two main types of hay storage barns: fully enclosed, which can be open at one end for ease of filling, but are otherwise totally enclosed, and "roof only" structures, accessible from all sides.   

When planning storage, ventilation is the key to good hay.  The storage must allow for air exchange, either by natural ventilation, or a fan system.  This is especially the case if the hay is not perfectly dry, so the air can get in to the hay and dry it out completely.  Good ventilation will also remove excessive moisture; if the moisture is left, it can move from warmer to cooler areas of the stack, damaging more bales.  Ventilation will also remove condensation which can form under steel.  ‘Visitors’ to hay barns (chickens, foxes, rodents, etc.) can contaminate hay and will leave their ‘calling card’ - adding to the bacteria – as well as their smell, which horses notice far more acutely than humans. (Cats are great for killing rodents.) Hay bales should be stacked with the newer ones at the back and the older at the front, so the older ones are used first, and allow narrow gaps between rows for extra air flow.  Try to keep them off the ground to ensure maximum air flow; open lofts are ideal; another alternative is wooden pallets.   

Steaming Hay Even the best quality hay may contain levels of dust and spores, which can provoke coughing in horses, as well as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), amongst other respiratory diseases.   Soaking hay to eliminate dust is not only messy and laborious, but also reduces the nutritional content and produces a liquid waste that is classed as an environmental pollutant, eight times worse than human effluent. Steaming hay with the HAYGAIN hay steamer has been scientifically proven to kill harmful spores found in hay and therefore effectively sterilise hay without nutritional loss.  The HAYGAIN hay steamer has been researched and extensively tested at The Royal Agricultural College, by Equine Nutritionist Dr Meriel Moore-Colyer. The research found that hay treated with the HAYGAIN steamer destroys all mould and spores present, in effect sterilizing the hay. Findings showed that one gram of untreated hay contained around 7,750,000 spores; HAYGAIN reduced that number to virtually 0.  HAYGAIN’s effectiveness at eliminating these spores was further substantiated when the Irish Equine Centre carried out independent testing on particularly bad hay which was known to contain AspergillusSaid Thomas Buckley, head of Microbiology at the Irish Equine Centre:  “Aspergillusis one of the main causes of RAO, EIPH, immune suppression and poor performance in racehorses. It is also however, heat sensitive and so is greatly reduced using HAYGAIN hay steamers.” HAYGAIN’s unique concept enables steam to penetrate the centre of the bale, releasing steam evenly which defuses outwards, ensuring the entire bale is steamed at the critically necessary temperatures (circa 100°C throughout). Using the HAYGAIN hay steamer produces sweet-smelling, palatable, dust-free hay. 

HAYGAIN hay steamers are available in three models: the HG-1000 designed to steam a full bale and the HG-500 for a half bale, wedges or hay nets. The HG-GO is a fully collapsible bag that will accommodate half a bale of hay or large hay net, it is ideal to take to shows. All units steam hay thoroughly and evenly in less than 50 minutes.  


Top Tips to Keep a Dust Free Environment

Propress Equine, creators of HAYGAIN hay steamers, are committed to improving the health and performance of your horse.  Maintaining healthy respiratory systems throughout winter can be difficult.  With horses often in the stables for longer periods of time, the exposure to dustier environments increases, through forage, bedding, feed, and stable ventilation.  To keep your horse as healthy as possible HAYGAIN hay steamers have come up with a few suggestions and factors to consider: 

Ventilation Ensure the stable is well ventilated to allow good circulation of fresh air.  Air should enter the stable through open top doors, windows and vents.  As the air warms from the horse’s body heat, it will rise and leave the stable at the highest point, creating a circulation of air.   

Hay Storage Stored dry hay is an obvious source of fungal spores and dust, so avoid storage too close to where the horse is stabled.  

Drainage Good drainage within the stable will prevent the build-up of urine which contains ammonia, a respiratory irritant.

Bedding Dust-extracted large wood shavings, paper or cardboard are the most suitable types of bedding for as they contain minimal dust and fungal spores. 

Hard Feeds Concentrates fed in buckets may contain dust, which can be inhaled as the horse eats, amplified by the confined space of the bucket.  This can be resolved by damping down the feed with some water. 

Mucking Out Move the horse out of the stable during mucking out as this generates a lot of airborne particles.  Whenever possible, allow the dust to settle before the horse is put back.  If the hay and feed are to be put in the stable after mucking out, this is best after the dust has settled.  

Grooming Grooming generates dust and should ideally be carried out outside to avoid it accumulating in the stable.

Forage Although hay is undoubtedly the ideal forage for horses, it can be very dusty.  The answer is the HAYGAIN hay steamer, which is the only scientifically proven method to eliminate all dust spores.  Feed the steamer hay from the floor, this method mimics the natural grazing posture, which reduces the intake of respiratory irritants and encourages airway drainage, the first line of defence against deep inhalation of feed particles such as hay dust.


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For further information please contact Haygain hay steamers on (0333) 200 5233 or click here to visit their website. 

Straights and compound feeds
Horses often need more energy / calories than a diet of forage alone provides. These are provided in the form of a bucket feed. The feed can be provided in the form of straights (individual cereals, gains, e.g. oats, barley, maize etc…) or as a compound feed (commercially formulated ready prepared mixes or pellets). Most owners are not experts in equine nutrition and select to feed compound feeds. There are compound feeds designed to meet the wide ranging needs of equines. Feed companies are happy to provide advice on feeding and coming soon to the site will be links for you to find out more. Many of these compound feeds contain vitamins and minerals and therefore if fed at recommended amount further vitamins and minerals supplements are not required. It is dangerous to over feed supplements. All feed needs to be stored in dry rodent proof containers. Feed scoops vary in shapes, sizes and designs therefore it is essential you know how much in weight each scoop holds as feed is fed by weight. Often a fibre source is added e.g. chaff or sugar beet is added to a feed as it aids digestion.
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Factors for feeding
When you are putting together a feeding programme for a horse it will be dependant on a number of factors these include:-
  • Size, build and breed of the horse / pony.
  • The body condition – condition scoring and weight monitoring are essential. An under weight horse will require very different management to one that is obese.
  • The age of the horse – a foal and a veteran have very different needs.
  • Health – a horse that is sick or recovering from an illness will need a different diet to a healthy horse. A horse that has suffered an illness in the past e.g. laminitis will have specific feed requirements.
  • Fitness level and work load. E.g. Horses in light work needs 75 to 85% fed as forage and 15 to 25% as a bucket feed. Horses in medium work needs 60 to 75% fed as forage and 25 to 40% as a bucket feed.
  • Hours spent grazing and what the grazing is like.
Horses normally eat 2 to 2.5% (dry weight of food) of their body weight each day. From this calculation it is possible to work out how much to feed your horse / pony.
Here is an example. A healthy and correct weight for size 500Kg horse will require between 10 to 12.5kg food a day. If he was in light work we could divide this 12.5kg allowance up into 85% forage and 15% bucket feed. This makes the feed for this horse 10.6kg forage (hay) and 1.9kg bucket feed suitable for a horse in light work.
If you are in any doubt about feeding your horse or pony feed companies are expert at giving advice and will be able to best advise you on a suitable feeding programme for your horse or pony. Coming soon to the site will be links for you to find out more.
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Behaviour at feeding times
Horses can become protective of their food at feeding times. Some can become aggressive therefore it is essential that people giving out feed and working with horses are safety conscious when feeding horses. Horses are individuals and have different feeding habits, it is important that you recognise what is normal behaviour for each horse. Any change from what is normal can be the first sign all is not well.
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Guidelines for feeding
Here are some simple guidelines for feeding horses:-
  • Always ensure the horse has access to clean fresh water
  • Feed little and often – horses are trickle feeders
  • Make changes gradually
  • Feed only the best, good quality, dust free forage
  • Feed a high fibre diet
  • Keep feed bowls and utensils clean
  • Keep feed room and hay storage areas clean
  • Store feed in rodent proof bins
  • Keep to a feeding routine
  • Feed to the horse’s condition – monitor weight and condition score
  • Feed to work load
  • Feed to temperament
  • If you are in any doubt about feeding your horse or pony get professional advice

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 Guidelines for supplements

There are many supplements available for horses. It is important to make sure if you are giving a supplement that you select the correct one for your horse. If your horse suffers from a particular condition a supplement can be very useful. Please note if you use a compound feed they often contain vitamins and minerals and therefore if fed at recommended amount further vitamins and minerals supplements are not required. It is dangerous to over feed supplements.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you decide about feeding supplements:-
  • Never overdose supplements. (Read the instructions carefully)
  • Commercial compound feeds are often supplemented get advice from the manufacturer. Over feeding supplements is dangerous.
  • Split the supplements between the feeds.
  • Introduce supplements slowly and gradually build up to the recommended dose.
  • Mix the supplement well into the feed.
Coming soon will be links to experts for you to find out more.
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The Feed Room Directory

The Feed Room Directory is currently under development and new enteries will be added each week. The directory contains information on feeding your horse / pony and on the supplements available there are links to companies and organisations that will be able to provide more information on their products.  

If you are interested in promoting your company / organisation it’s products or services in the Feed Room Directory please click here to contact us. The National Horse and Pony Network is able to offer companies / organisations a whole page entry in the directory, this can include text and images and a link to your website.

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Horsemanship Magazine

eye close upHorsemanship Magazine is committed to bringing together information which encourages independent thinking. Linking training and handling with health, hoof, heart, spirit and soul.  The magazine showcases good practice and cutting edge thinking. The collective voice and knowledge provides users with a continually growing, abundant and trusted resource bank for good, safe and effective equine practice that considers the whole horse. The magazine's passion is for true partnership with the horse and stress free horsemanship so horses and people experience harmony and more enjoyable lives together. Click here to visit Horsemanship Magazine's website.

Natural Horsemanship Warwickshire


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Vicki Jayne Maris BA Hons
National Horse & Pony Network Managing Director & Inspirational Horsemanship Tutor
Tel 07930605544
VJMaris & Merlot

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