Yearling horses are young horses who are considered to be at least 1 year old and have not yet turned 2 years old. Yearlings grow significantly during this time of their lives and need to receive optimum nutrition to grow properly. Problems can be caused both by underfeeding and overfeeding a yearling colt. The way you feed your yearling can have lifelong effects on his health and soundness.
A yearling colt is an uncastrated male horse who has not yet reached physical maturity. Yearlings are generally too old to be nursing from their mothers. They should have been weaned at approximately 6 months of age. It is important to note that many equine breed associations and registries consider every horse born during the previous year to be one year older as of Jan. 1. In the case of foals born late in the season, they technically may be considered a yearling well before they are a year old. While the actual birth date of the horse will not matter once he has physically matured, you need to know your colt's actual birthday when you begin to develop a feeding plan. A 6-month-old "yearling", i.e. a foal who was born in July, is going to need a different feeding regimen than a foal who was born in January and is in fact a year old as of Jan. 1 the next year.
A Balanced Diet
According to the University of Kentucky, your yearling foal will do most of his growing in the time between birth and 18 months old. Young horses have small digestive tracts that will prevent them from consuming a lot of feed at one time. This means that you need to deliver all of your horse's nutrition in relatively small quantities of high quality feed. Your yearling colt needs to be able to get enough feed to supply him with ample amounts of energy, minerals, vitamins and protein.
The Yearling's Diet
A yearling who is at least 12 months old should receive 0.5 to 1.5 pounds of feed for every 100 pounds of his body weight. The University of Kentucky recommends feeding yearlings a grain that has between 12 and 14 percent protein. It also is recommended that your yearling have unlimited access to hay and pasture grasses as well as clean water. Yearlings can either be fed a grain that is designed specifically for young horses or they can be fed a general purpose horse grain that contains 2 to 3 percent protein and 1 to 3 percent fat.
Feeding Your Yearling
Every horse is an individual so it is up to you and your veterinarian to figure out the best feeding program for your yearling. If your yearling is an easy keep and begins to gain too much weight, you will need to scale back his feed. If he is skin and bones despite eating what should be an adequate amount of feed for him, your veterinarian needs to examine him and make a determination as to what needs to be done to improve his condition. Remember that working hand-in-hand with an experienced equine veterinarian to plan your yearling's diet is the best way to come up with his best feeding formula.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.