What do Horses Eat? Horse Care Guidelines

What do horses eat? Understanding what horses eat is crucial for their overall well-being and performance. Horses, as herbivores, have specific dietary needs that should not be overlooked. What do horses eat? Horses thrive on diverse feeds, adjusting amounts based on needs, work, and digestive considerations.

What do horses eat

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A well-informed guide on horse nutrition goes beyond just answering the question of what do horses eat. It covers feeding issues, dietary tips, and ideas for balanced meals. What do horses eat beyond the standard feeds? Consuming fruits and vegetables adds nutrients to their health.

Understanding what horses eat is crucial for dressage and show-jumping competitors. A healthy diet helps horses win these competitions. What do horses eat for optimal performance? Knowing the answer ensures they receive the right nutrients and energy levels necessary for these demanding activities.

Salt intake is another factor to consider when contemplating what horses eat. Proper salt intake is essential for their well-being, aiding in maintaining electrolyte balance.

What do horses eat?

Horses, being herbivores, have a distinctive diet influenced by factors such as age, size, and digestive system characteristics. These foragers primarily consume grasses, herbs, and plants, making them natural grazers and trickle feeders. Understanding the dietary needs of horses involves recognizing the importance of providing them with suitable types of forage.

The flow of nutrients through their digestive tract is crucial, as their stomachs are designed for continuous grazing. Diverse plants, including weeds, are needed to provide appropriate nourishment.

Even though horses have small guts, their meals should include a variety of fodder to provide nutritional needs.  Horse owners can improve their horses’ health throughout their lifetimes by adapting their diets to these factors.

Do horses require grass and hay for roughage?

Horses, as herbivores, necessitate a balanced diet to maintain their health and prevent issues like colic and stomach ulcers. Most of a horse’s diet should comprise forage such as grasses, hay, and haylage, forming the foundation of their feeding regime.

Access to various forage types, including GrassGrass from hedgerows and herbs, is essential. This broad forage source supports their nutritional demands and keeps roughage flowing through their digestive system.

While concentrates and grains are part of their diet, roughage is essential for health and digestion. Horses require GrassGrass, food, and water to keep their bodies functioning properly. The trees and other natural components in their enclosure support the horse’s standard eating patterns.

How much hay and grass is enough for my horse to eat?

A horse’s amount of hay and grass depends on body weight, work, and dietary considerations. On average, a horse requires 2 to 2.5 percent of its body weight in food intake daily.

When determining the appropriate amount of hay and grass, it’s essential to consider the horse’s consumption of concentrates and grains. Roughage, including GrassGrass and hay, should constitute a significant part of the diet, around half of the food intake. For optimal digestion and colic prevention, fiber-rich roughage is essential.

A balanced and nutritious feeding plan depends on the horse’s weight and the percentage of concentrates and roughage. Regular diet monitoring and modifications maintain the horse’s health and well-being.

Haylage, grass, and hay differences

What do horses eat

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The most common forms of roughage offered to horses are GrassGrass, hay, and haylage, and understanding their distinctions is essential for adequate equine nutrition. In the context of horse feed, GrassGrass refers to a field with new GrassGrass where horses can graze freely. Many kinds of GrassGrass, including timothy, red fescue, meadow grass with a smooth stalk, and ryegrass, serve as nutritious options when horses are turned out during the day.

The transformation from fresh grass to hay or haylage occurs when the grass is cut and left to dry for preservation as animal fodder. Storing these dried forms becomes crucial for feeding animals when natural grazing is impossible, such as during winter or when horses are stabled full-time.

The critical difference between hay and haylage lies in their respective production processes. Hay involves cutting and drying GrassGrass to achieve moisture levels of approximately 10–15%, minimizing the risk of mold growth during storage and enhancing preservation.

In contrast, haylage is grass cut and dried for a shorter period, maintaining higher moisture levels at 45–50%. The baled haylage is then wrapped in plastic layers, allowing for fermentation and creating conditions unfavorable for mold development.

These distinct production methods result in two feeds, each with its nutritional pros and cons. Heavily dried hay may experience nutrient loss as leaves fracture, whereas haylage retains higher protein, fiber, and energy levels due to its reduced drying process. It improves the nutritional value of some varieties of specialist horse haylage, and certain grass species are hand-picked and combined in the production process. Understanding these differences is crucial for tailoring a horse’s diet to meet its nutritional requirements.

Pros and cons

Both hay and haylage present advantages and disadvantages, catering to different needs among horses. Here’s a concise overview of the pros and cons associated with each:

Pros and cons of hay


  1. Offers sufficient calories for horses for lighter tasks without making them prone to weight gain.
  2. Remains in good condition for an extended period when stored correctly.
  3. More cost-effective to produce and purchase compared to haylage.


  1. Potential to release mold spores and dust when unwrapped, endangering horses with respiratory issues.
  2. Soaking hay in water can lessen the amount of dust and spores, but it can take some time and could lower the quality.
  3. it’s possible that your pet needs a concentrated meal to meet their protein and vitamin-mineral needs.

Benefits and drawbacks of haylage


  1. The GrassGrass utilized for haylage is typically cut at a younger age, enhancing digestibility for horses.
  2. Offers higher nutritional value compared to hay.
  3. More palatable for horses, it can satisfy even the pickiest eaters, making it a good option.
  4. Due to its superior nutritional value, hay might be a cost-effective substitute for other supplements.
  5. Reduced dust and mold spores due to covering during storage, with added moisture content minimizing airborne risks.


  1. Generally more expensive than hay.
  2. Prone to quick deterioration after opening, requiring consumption within a few days, which can be challenging for smaller horse populations.
  3. Higher energy content may lead to weight gain or laminitis if consumed excessively.
  4. Careful management is necessary when reducing haylage amounts to prevent weight gain, ensuring sufficient forage to avoid digestion issues.

Which kinds of horse feed are there?

Additional types of horse feed may be necessary for specific horses, supplementing their diet alongside roughage. This need may arise for various reasons, such as providing extra energy for heavily worked horses, reducing calorie intake for overweight horses, or supplying additional vitamins for older horses.

These supplementary feeds, collectively termed concentrates, grains, supplements, mix, and pellets, comprise the three primary groups with the most available options. They supplement a horse’s food, often addressing specific benefits or medical requirements.

While in some instances, only one type of concentrate may be added to the feed, combining several concentrates is also possible if multiple enhancements are necessary. Understanding the distinct roles and benefits of these concentrates is crucial for tailoring a horse’s diet to meet its individual needs effectively.


Within concentrate feeds, grains play a pivotal role, often recognized as oats, corn, or straights. Despite the common association with “oats,” various grains fall under this category. Cereals like oats are preferred as a concentrate due to their higher nutritional value than roughage, addressing certain horses’ specific dietary needs.

Types of grains

Oats: Renowned for their compatibility with a horse’s digestive system, oats stand out as one of the most favoured equine grain choices. Their lower energy value and higher fibre content make them famous. Additionally, equines are considered among the most delectable things to be conceived.

Maize (Corn): Although humans can also enjoy maize as a food source, it is less popular than oats. Maize comes from the same plant family as oats. The doubled energy content but lower fibre make overfeeding and weight issues more likely, leading to the practice of not usually feeding maize on its own.

Barley: Another grain in the equine diet is typically fed alongside oats and corn rather than in isolation. Processing is necessary to enhance digestibility by removing seed hulls.

Wheat Bran: Occasionally incorporated into Wheat bran is less prevalent than other grains when supplementing a horse’s diet with bran mash for added nutrients, but it is still available. The amount of phosphorus in its high content necessitates careful management when included in the diet. Understanding the distinct characteristics of these grains is essential for making informed choices in tailoring a horse’s diet to meet its specific nutritional requirements.

Supplements for comprehensive horse nutrition

What do horses eat

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Horses need supplements to get crucial elements they don’t get from their diet. The balancer can address specific illnesses, provide extra calories or fat for horses with high energy needs, and boost mineral and vitamin intake.

Some horses may benefit from specialized products like salt licks or soybean meals to meet nutritional requirements. The diverse market of supplements caters to various aspects of a horse’s health, enhancing the nutritional content of their hay, pasture, or concentrates.

Tailoring supplements to individual horses helps address unique dietary needs and promotes overall health, making them an integral part of equine care.

Mixes and pellets

Mixes and pellets offer a convenient and comprehensive solution to equine feeding, combining various elements in one package. These carefully crafted concentrates blend essential grains, protein, and other nutrients, providing a well-rounded foundation for a horse’s diet.

This convenience extends to the ease of feeding, as everything a horse needs is in one form. Transparency in the formulation and nutritional values ensures horse owners can make informed choices about the ration they provide.

Whether addressing the nutritional needs of a single horse or a group mixes and pellets offer a balanced and practical feeding solution, simplifying care and promoting the overall well-being of horses.

Does my horse require a different kind of feed?

Firstly, the activity and workload of the horseplay play a crucial role. A careful approach involves assessing the energy needs ensuring an appropriate balance in the diet. The body’s condition and nutrient requirements should be considered, adjusting the feed accordingly.

Horses with higher exercise levels or different work tasks may need specialized concentrates to meet their increased calorie and nutrient demands.

Including suitable forage and roughage becomes essential, catering to the natural grazing tendencies of the horse. Ultimately, tailoring the diet to the individual horse’s needs and nutrient requirements ensures a well-rounded and suitable feeding plan.

What can equines eat?

Understanding what equines can eat is of utmost importance for their well-being. A horse’s diet is the basis for its overall health and behavior. It is a fact that certain foods can be harmful, emphasizing the importance of knowing what is safe to feed by hand or as meals.

Equines have specific nutritional needs, and riders or caretakers must appreciate the significance of providing the right quantities and proportions. Treating is frequent, but excessive or unsuitable treats can cause dietary imbalances and diseases. Maintaining a healthy horse diet requires knowing the proper joys.

What are some common horse-feeding issues, and how can I avoid them?

Even if you’ve spent much time perfecting your horse’s feeding schedule, you must closely monitor their eating habits and overall health to ensure it’s doing its job. It would be best if you looked out for a few problems so you can address them.

·        Weight control in horses

What do horses eat

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Managing a horse’s weight is a crucial aspect of equine care, as overconsumption and an imbalance in calorie intake can lead to various health problems. In the UK, where grazing on different grasses are common, attention to the horse’s body and body condition score is essential.

Laminitis is an issue that can arise due to the overconsumption of sugar in certain grasses, indicating a need for careful monitoring of the horse’s diet.

Weight-related problems, such as malnutrition or weight gain, can be indicators of an imbalance in the horse’s feeding. Tracking the horse’s weight and adjusting the diet helps prevent these issues and ensures the horse’s overall well-being.

·        Bolting

What do horses eat

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Addressing feeding issues like bolting is crucial for maintaining a horse’s health. Bolting or rapidly consuming food can lead to various problems, including choking and colic. Handlers and horse owners should seek expert advice to mitigate the risk associated with this behavior.

Introducing chaff or dividing food into smaller pieces can help manage bolting. A balanced diet with various feed materials, such as apples and carrots, can reduce the likelihood of bolting and associated health problems.

Understanding and addressing this feeding habit contributes to a horse’s overall well-being, ensuring a safer and healthier feeding environment for the horse and its handlers.

·        Choke

What do horses eat

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Instances of choking in horses can be distressing for both horse owners and the animals themselves. Often associated with the bolting issue during meal times, it involves the blockage of the throat and discomfort in the horse.

This condition may arise in all horses, but specific warning signals, such as difficulty swallowing, spasm, and visible signs of distress, should be addressed with immediate care from a veterinarian.

In some cases, the volume or consistency of the food may contribute to the problem. Understanding the symptoms and seeking professional attention can deal effectively with instances of choking, preventing further complications like colic and ensuring the horse’s overall well-being.

·        Quidding

What do horses eat

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Quidding, or dropping partially chewed food, is an equine feeding issue that can indicate underlying dental problems causing discomfort. All horses are susceptible to this issue, and signs such as weight loss, mouth sores, and an imbalance in food intake may indicate dental problems. Seeking an equine dentist’s or vet’s expertise is crucial when observing quidding.

Addressing the issue involves thoroughly examining the teeth and treating any lumps, wads, or other abnormalities contributing to discomfort and difficulty in adequately chewing and swallowing food. Proper dental care and attention to these warning signs help maintain the horse’s dental health and overall well-being.

Effective horse-feeding practices

You can ensure your horse is fed correctly and healthily by following specific best practice guidelines and being aware of the problems to watch out for. In this part of the guide, we’ve compiled some tips to help you keep your feeding schedule on track.

Hygiene and food preservation practices

Ensuring the quality of your horse’s food begins with correct storage and hygiene practices. Follow these golden rules to avoid deterioration and potential problems:

·        Stacking hay

What do horses eat

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Store your horse’s hay in a cool, dry place protected from the elements. Ensure good ventilation, allowing air circulation under the bales to prevent dampness. The problem can be solved by elevating the bales on pallets or planks.

·        Handling haylage with care

What do horses eat

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When dealing with haylage, ensure that the outer layer remains intact to maintain conditions for quality feed. Exercise extra care during packing, moving, and storing to prevent damage. Avoid using any haylage that shows signs of harm.

·        Securing hard feed storage

What do horses eat

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Store hard feed in a fantastic, dry location, safeguarded from vermin for the sake of cleanliness, and horses so as not to allow them to become overweight. Exercise caution, especially when storing sugar beets that have not been soaked first, as horses can be poisoned by eating them without preparation.

·        Keeping the dishes and gear clean

What do horses eat

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Maintain a consistent cleaning schedule for the horse’s feeding bowls and equipment to ensure they remain sanitary. This practice prevents ingesting leftover, stale food that could lead to digestive trouble. Promptly clean any spilt food for the same reasons.

·        Disposing of uneaten rations

What do horses eat

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Dispose of any uneaten feed rather than reintroducing it to the supply for the next feeding. Investigate simply examining your horse and the food still there, and you can determine why the ration was not consumed. This practice ensures that potential issues leading to uneaten food are promptly addressed.

Safe horse feeding practices

Ensuring your horse can consume its ration safely and minimize mess requires thoughtful feeding etiquette. Here are vital considerations for safe horse feeding:

Dampen dry food before feeding: To prevent bolting and promote safe consumption, dampen dry food before providing. This practice benefits all horses, not just those prone to bolting.

Select the appropriate feeding container: Opt for a suitable feeding container that promotes safety and convenience. A large, shallow bowl made of plastic or rubber allows the horse to dip its head without tipping the container. Alternatively, consider feeding from a manger fastened to the stable wall, fence, or door, aligning with the horse’s natural grazing behaviour.

Supplying roughage: When delivering roughage to a stabled horse, use a hay net attached to a wall ring. It will allow the horse to consume the roughage contained within the net. It significantly reduces the amount of hay wasted from being trampled on the ground below. Ensure the net is tied high enough with a quick-release knot to prevent the horse’s foot from becoming entangled.

Spread out roughage in a field: Spread roughage out in the form of little piles to provide outdoor feeding in an area, allowing horses to graze naturally. In an enclosure with multiple horses, distribute adequate hay piles to prevent conflicts and ensure each horse has access.

Avoid volume measurements while feeding horses

When it comes to feeding horses, it is advisable to avoid volume measurements and instead prioritize accurate weight measurements to ensure the horse’s optimal nutrition. Relying on volume, such as handfuls or guessing, may lead to an imbalance in the horse’s diet, as the actual amount of food can vary.

Using scales, spring balances, or other precise measuring tools, manufacturers provide is recommended to determine the correct weight of hay, haylage, or other feeds. This approach allows adherence to specific feeding guidelines and helps adjust the amount of food according to the horse’s needs.

Using volume measurements can result in inconsistency and may not suit the individual dietary requirements of each horse. By giving horses access to accurately measured feeds, owners can ensure a well-balanced diet that caters to their specific nutritional needs.

Avoiding pre- and post-workout eating for horses

Regarding feeding horses around exercise, it’s important to note that their digestive system works differently during workouts. Providing food right before or after can disrupt their natural digestion.

During activity, blood flow increases, and body temperature rises, diverting resources from digestion. Horses are natural grazers, and their digestive system is optimized for continuous foraging, not sudden food intake.

Offering food around workouts may hinder the digestive process. To ensure the horse’s well-being, avoiding giving food immediately before or after an exercise is advisable.

Providing a balanced diet throughout the day for horses

A continuous grazing approach for horses aligns with their natural behavior and digestive system. Instead of concentrating feeds on two or three meals, it’s better to distribute food throughout the day.

It supports their lunchtime feed preferences and nutritional needs. Creating a routine with meals at various intervals suits their digestive system and aligns with their natural behavior. Riders and caretakers can easily incorporate this balanced feeding strategy into the daily routine for effective horse care.

Make changes gradually

When considering Modifications to the eating habits of a horse, it’s crucial to approach alterations with care and patience. Gradual changes, whether in the amount or kind of feed, ensure a balanced transition.

Sudden decreases or increases in the feed amount can lead to problems and potential risks. Horses thrive on routine, so any changes in their diet should be a thoughtful process.

Any changes that are made to the food that is provided, such as adding new types of foods or adjusting the meal schedule, ought to be measured to prevent an upset in the harmony of their diet. Recommendations for changes should be followed meticulously, considering the horse’s body and the potential impact on its overall well-being.

Adhere to a feeding regimen

Maintaining a feeding schedule is crucial for horses. Habitual horses thrive on a regular feeding routine. Departures from their established practice can have an impact, potentially leading to colic or other feeding-related issues.

Clocks and calendars become vital tools in ensuring that feeding times are prioritized under all circumstances. Whether it’s one horse or several, maintaining a regular feeding pattern is essential for most equine creatures. The feeding routine becomes a priority, and any deviations from this pattern should be carefully considered to avoid adverse results.

How should my horse be watered?

What do horses eat

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Ensuring proper hydration for your horse is a vital aspect of equine care. With access to water being a top priority, horse owners must be attentive to the frequency and amounts of water intake.

Depending on weather and work levels, most horses require 8 to 22 gallons of water daily. Providing access to clean water at all times is essential, whether through water buckets, troughs, or drinking bowls.

Horse owners should carefully monitor water containers for the presence of algae and regularly clean and maintain them to promote a healthy drinking environment. Water troughs are crucial in stable settings, and hoses or pipes can be utilized for efficient water supply.

It is also beneficial to consider the water content in the horse’s diet, recognizing its role in digestion and overall health. Paying attention to hydration is a fundamental guide for horse owners to navigate feeding problems and promote the well-being of their equine companions.

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