Neither green sheaf oats, nor threshed oats which have not been seasoned for three months or more, should be fed, - especially to fast drivers and hard-worked draft-animals.
So far, the feeding of horses used for draft and severe continuous farm work has been discussed; but there are many horses on farms which have light, intermittent work, in which case quite different methods of feeding may be practiced. If pastures are abundant, the horses may be turned out at night, and in the day-time when not in use. They may receive less than one-half as much concentrated food as the . horse at severe toil. A good practice is to bring the horses to the stables in the morning, that they may be quickly available if wanted. A little hay and grain may serve for their noon feed. If the pastures are satisfactory, the horses may be turned out in the early evening without having received any food whatever in the stables, even if they have been at moderate work.
Little or no grain food or grooming or care will be necessary, provided the horse's work is not hard or continued for too many hours a day. If the outside covering of the horse does look a little unkempt, it will correspond with the clothes of the driver, both being suited to their work. The horse which is used for purely utilitarian purposes should be the servant of man; not man the servant of the horse, as is sometimes the case when the owner waits on his pet horse more than he does on his wife. This may be appropriate if the horse is kept for conspicuous display and the wife for work.
In America, food is so abundant and varied that the horseman has opportunity of wide choice. Hay, bright straw, corn-stalks and even silage serve well for roughage. Usually all of these fodders have a wide nutritive ratio and therefore require that the grain ration be narrow. The reader will have no difficulty in compounding a suitable ration after studying Appendix III. (See Chapter XVII (Education And Care Of Roadsters And Other Light Horses) for feeding driving-horses and those employed at other light, quick work.) Farm-horses when at moderate work, and especially mares with foal at foot, may wholly or in part be soiled - fed in the stables on green food - especially if their grain ration be abundant and well seasoned. Grass, clover oats and peas are good for summer soiling. See "Soiling," by F. S. Peer.
In warm weather, horses which are working hard enjoy a sip of water before partaking of their morning meal, and even in cool weather some horses relish a drink before breakfast. All horses can be trained to this habit, and it is probable that such habit promotes healthfulness, since, if watered before they are fed, they are not likely to drink much after their morning meal. Large quantities of cold water taken into the stomach immediately after a meal tend to arrest digestion. It may also cause serious irritation of the intestines by washing undigested food into the alimentary canal. If provision could be made on the farm without too great expense for watering horses when at work, in warm weather, in the middle of the fore- and afternoon, it would be both profitable and humane, - for without water they often suffer when sweating profusely. Horses naturally drink when they come from their labors to the stable, and this is well if they do not drink too much; for water taken when the animal is thirsty, before eating, quickly passes into the circulation, whereas the same amount of water taken after a hearty meal would tend, as before stated, to arrest digestion. Cold water taken in large quantities, when the horse is unusually depressed or when over-warm, may chill the stomach to the point where it reacts but slowly, in which case colic or founder may result. If reaction comes promptly, as it should when a cold-water internal bath is taken, the stomach is stimulated instead of being depressed. If horses are thirsty when fed, they do not relish their food. A full supply of water in the system is quite as necessary as a full supply of food. It should never be forgotten that water is the great vehicle which carries food into, and most of the refuse material out of, circulation.
Heating water for cattle has been tried to some extent, but the practice has been largely abandoned, the reason for which I think is explainable. First, no suitable appliances were at hand when the attempt was made to heat the water, and the temperature was not raised above lukewarm. Lukewarm water is not only less palatable than cool or hot water but may be positively nauseating. Water raised to 98° or 100° Fahr. is highly relished by both cattle and horses in cold weather. Hot water saves food, promotes health and digestion, and may, under certain conditions, prevent chills and founder in severely worked horses. The only reason for not providing it is that it is not usually convenient to do so. In a few cases, steam is in the barn or can be generated easily and cheaply, in which case it is wise and profitable to heat the water for both cattle and horses, in cold weather. Horses consume less water than cows in milk. The average for horses at work is not far from forty pounds and for cattle in milk sixty pounds daily. The taking into the system of such large quantities of water often at or near the freezing point, is not conducive to economy or health; for this water must be raised by the use of food to blood-heat, quickly. Since it takes more units of heat to raise a unit of water one degree in temperature than any other food substance, it can easily be understood that a considerable part of the ration of the animal must be used in raising the temperature of the water. However, the matter is largely a financial one. In some parts of our country roughage is cheaper than coal; in other sections, the reverse is true.
In the winter, horses are likely to become constipated. Their voidings should be watched closely, for constipation is the mother of many ills. Carrots are much relished by horses kept on dry foods. Unsalable apples, if fairly ripe, or small potatoes, may be fed to advantage in small quantities, though they are of small nutritive value. Mangolds are fairly good and cheap of production, as twenty-five to forty tons per acre can be raised and the cost per bushel is not more than one-half as much as of carrots. A hot bran mash is a most excellent regulator of the bowels. However, a gill per day of oil-meal helps to narrow the almost invariably too wide ration, corrects constipation and tends to make the skin pliable and the hair soft. Nevertheless, it is seldom that the farmer can be persuaded to purchase even a single ton of oil-meal, or to feed it even in an experimental way. He has been feeding, for instance, four quarts of grain at a time, the measure full. If he adds a pound of oil-meal to the ration, the supply is soon exhausted. He has seen no marked beneficial results, since he has not observed closely enough to have seen the constant little changes for the better, day by day; and he comes to the conclusion that his twenty-five dollars which he paid for the ton of oil-meal has been thrown away, and, of course, purchases no more.
Draft- and farm-horses require more salt than do those put to less severe work. Salt should be accessible at all times in the stall. The common soft salt is to be preferred to rock salt, especially the cheap kinds, as the tongues of the animals may be irritated by licking it, notably of those requiring a liberal supply. Four horses on dry feed ate twenty-eight pounds of salt in fifty-six days, or two ounces per day per horse. In experiments with cows, at the end of forty-three days it was found that they consumed three and fifteen one hundredth ounces of salt per cow per day.
Horses relish a little hard-wood ashes, and it used to be a common practice among farmers to supply them with limited quantities, once each week. Horses, as well as pigs, when fed on dry food, appear to be benefited by small quantities of charcoal, if they do not have access to the ground.