What do Horses Eat? Horse Care Guidelines

Spread the love

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Aftab Tariq

What do horses eat? Horses have special dietary needs because they’re herbivores with a unique digestive system. Their long digestive tract requires a diet high in fiber, which they eat in small amounts over a long period.

Unlike humans, who eat a few big meals, horses prefer many small meals throughout the day and spend a lot of time eating.

Their main diet consists of grass, hay or haylage, and they may also have salt, concentrates, fruits, or vegetables, depending on their work routine and available feed.

What do horses eat


Image Source

To keep your average adult horse healthy, check out our Horse Feeding Guide. If you notice changes in your horse’s eating habits or weight, consult your equine vet.

Also, be cautious about making sudden changes to your horse’s feed, as it can lead to illness, especially colic. If you need to adjust the diet, do it gradually over two to four weeks, and consider seeking advice from an equine nutritionist.

Horses naturally like to graze all day, preferring small, frequent meals. Here are some good types of horse feed:

  1. Grass: Horses love to eat grass, and it’s great for their digestion. Be cautious in spring when lush grass can cause issues like laminitis. Also, remove harmful plants like ragwort from the pasture.

  2. Hay or haylage: Keeps horses full and their digestion working, especially in colder months when there’s less pasture.

  3. Fruit or vegetables: Adds moisture to the feed. A lengthwise-cut carrot is a good option. Be careful about fruits and veggies to avoid, listed below.

  4. Concentrates: Vets might suggest grains like oats, barley, and corn for old, young, nursing, pregnant, or competing horses to provide energy. Use caution to prevent mineral imbalances.

  5. Salt: Offer a salt lick or loose salt in a separate container in the pasture. Horses often enjoy salt, especially in summer.


Water is a Vital Part of Horse Diet

While horses don’t properly “eat” water, it’s a vital part of their diet. Even if a horse is grazing on pasture grass and not consuming as much water as one on hay, access to fresh, clean water is essential for their well-being.

Your horse should have regular access to fresh water, preferably given at least twice a day. Avoid letting your horse drink right after a meal to prevent potential digestive issues. And in colder weather, make sure to prevent the water from freezing over.

Do Horses Eat Grass and Tender Plant?

What do horses eat? The natural diet for horses revolves around grazing on pasture grass and consuming tender plants. Quality pasture not only provides essential nutrition but also includes silica crucial for dental health.

What do Horses Eat

Unlike primitive horses that adapted to sparse rations and less-than-ideal conditions, modern horses, shaped by human development, face challenges like obesity and metabolic issues due to insufficient exercise.

Issues uncommon in wild horses but prevalent in modern ones may stem from human-influenced management practices. While pasture grass itself isn’t problematic, challenges arise from specific horse breeds developed by humans and a lack of sufficient exercise.

For owners of easy-keeping horses, monitoring access to fresh grass is vital, as a sudden shift to lush pasture can cause problems. However, hard-keeping horses benefit from the excellent nutrition provided by quality pasture.


Oats are a common grain in horses’ diets, but they can also have small amounts of other grains like corn. However, some grains, such as wheat, may not be suitable for them. In the wild, the closest thing to grains that horses eat is the seed head of grasses.

Modern methods of growing, harvesting, and processing grains have made them unnatural for horses. There’s a risk of overfeeding horses with grains, which don’t require the same chewing time as grass and lack essential silica levels.

This difference can lead to issues like ulcers and dental problems. Overeating a lot of grain may cause colic or founder in horses.


Minerals and Salt is Essential for Horse

What do horses eat? Supplements, including salt and minerals, can be integrated into a concentrate mix or provided separately. Horses can self-regulate by having access to a salt block or loose salt in a pasture or stall.

Some salt mixes may include minerals. Alternatively, individuals may choose to offer free-choice minerals or add them to the horse’s grain or concentrate meal. It is commonly observed that salt consumption tends to be higher during the summer months compared to colder weather.

Supplements for Comprehensive Horse Nutrition

What do horses eat


Image Source

What do horses eat? Concentrates are a blend of elements like grains, flaxseed, beet pulp, molasses for energy and flavor, bran, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Commercial mixes can contain diverse ingredients, and feed mills may tailor concentrates to specific requirements, which is practical when dealing with a considerable number of horses.

Similar to grains, concentrate mixes address nutritional gaps and offer a swift energy source. Mares in foal, nursing mares, performance horses, or those actively working often benefit from the supplementation of concentrates in addition to their diet of grass or hay.

Hay Basics: Essential Nutrition for Animals

What do Horses Eat

What do horses eat? Not everyone has the luxury of letting their horses graze on pasture year-round. When grass isn’t available, hay becomes the next best option.

Finding quality horse hay can be challenging, and testing the hay can help address any deficiencies in vitamins and minerals with supplements. Similar to rich pasture grass, rich hay can be problematic for certain horses.

Horses categorized as “easy keepers” might require restrictions on 24/7 access to a bale feeder to manage their intake effectively.


What do horses eat? Many horse owners enjoy treating their equine friends. These snacks can range from apples, watermelon, and carrots to handfuls of grain, sugar cubes, or even unconventional bites like a hot dog or boiled egg.

However, it’s essential to be cautious when offering meat or too many sugary treats, including fruit. Horses, as herbivores, may not immediately show signs like colic after consuming meat, but discomfort and disruptions in their intestinal flora can occur.

It’s crucial to understand that a horse won’t connect any discomfort to a treat they enjoyed earlier, potentially leading them to repeatedly indulge in their favorite foods.

Treats should be part of the overall feeding plan, with limitations for weight management. Moreover, it is important for horses to exhibit respectful behavior when receiving treats.

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 Horses Unable to Consume?

To keep your horse healthy, it’s not just about providing a varied diet with essential nutrients; it’s also vital to be mindful of what horses should avoid eating. Here’s a simple guide:

Excess Fruit: While horses enjoy fruit, too much can lead to complications like colic.

Cruciferous vegetables: Including cauliflower and broccoli, may lead to discomfort, so it’s advisable to provide them in moderation.

Meat: Even though your horse might be curious about meat, it’s best not to include it in their diet. Horses are herbivores, and adding meat can impact their health.

Dairy: Horses are lactose intolerant, so steer clear of dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk.

Bran: Limit the use of brans, like wheat and rice bran, as they can disrupt mineral balance in your horse’s diet.

Lawn and Garden Clippings: Avoid offering clippings, as some weeds can be harmful, and clippings may contain toxic pesticides.

Avocados: Keep avocados away, as they contain persin, which is toxic to horses and can lead to various health issues.

Being aware of these dietary restrictions is key to ensuring your horse stays happy and healthy.

How Much Food is Right for Horses?

What do horses eat? For an average adult horse, the recommended intake of dry matter, which is the solid portion remaining after extracting water from the feed, should be around 1.5–3% of its body weight.

What do Horses Eat

This quantity varies based on the horse’s activity level and the quality of the provided food. When it comes to feeding hay, it’s advisable that at least half of the horse’s diet comprises pasture grass, hay, or haylage.

Active horses involved in work or riding require additional food to prevent weight loss, and it’s essential to avoid working them immediately after providing large meals to prevent discomfort and digestive issues.

Overall, a horse’s food intake, generally up to 3% of their body weight in hay daily, depends on various factors, including their size and activity level, and should be considered in the context of their complete daily diet.

Frequently Asked Questions


What do horses eat?

What do horses eat? Horses do well with regular, small meals throughout the day, especially if kept in a stable, where they should be fed two to three times daily, with no more than an eight-hour gap without food. Keeping a consistent feeding schedule, ideally at the same time each day, aligns with horses' preference for routine. Additionally, ensure that feeding troughs are clean to avoid any refusal to eat or drink by the horses.

What Do Wild Horses Eat?

Wild horses freely roam large areas, munching on grass, seed heads, and a variety of edible shrubs and plants. They typically choose habitats near sources of fresh water. It's estimated that these horses spend approximately 15-17 hours each day indulging in their grazing habits.

What Do Horses Like to Eat?

Horses delight in treats, snacks, as well as grass and hay, but it's important not to overindulge. For guidance on suitable foods, please refer to our section on what to avoid.

Do Horses Ever Eat Meat?

Although horses may show interest in eating meat, and a few might even enjoy it, there is no clear evidence supporting the idea that meat should be a part of their diet. While the occasional theft of a bit of your hot dog may not cause immediate harm, actively encouraging horses to consume meat is not recommended, as it could have negative consequences for their well-being.

What Do Horses Eat in Minecraft?

Horses have different food preferences depending on the situation. For breeding, go for Golden Apples and Golden Carrots. If healing is needed, opt for Hay Bales. And if you want a baby horse to grow faster, their favorite is Golden Apples.

What Do Horses Eat in the Wild?

Wild horses graze on large areas of land, munching on grass, grass seed heads, and various edible shrubs and plants. They usually stay close to sources of fresh water. Studies suggest that wild horses spend about 15 to 17 hours each day grazing.

What Do Horses Eat and Drink?

Most of the time, horses need hay or pasture available throughout the day, along with two grain feedings daily. On average, a medium-sized horse eats about 20 pounds of food a day and drinks at least eight gallons of water.

What Can Horses Eat and Not Eat?

Horses can eat hay, grass, grains like oats, and certain fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots. However, they should avoid toxic plants, certain fruits and vegetables like avocados, sugary treats, and moldy or spoiled food. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can ensure a horse’s diet is appropriate.

What Do Horses Eat for Breakfast?

Horses typically eat a combination of hay, grass, grains (such as oats), and possibly some fruits or vegetables for breakfast. The specific diet may vary depending on the horse’s individual needs, activity level, and dietary requirements set by their owner or caretaker.

What Do Horses Drink?

A resting 1,100-pound horse in cooler temperatures typically drinks 6 to 10 gallons of water daily. In hotter conditions, this can increase to 15 gallons per day. Working horses usually need 10-18 gallons of water daily on average, but they may require more during hot weather.

Where Do Horses Live?

Wild horses live in steppes and open grasslands. Domesticated horses are found all over the world and don’t have a specific habitat.

What Do Horses Eat Out of?

What do horses eat from? Horses eat from feeding troughs, hay racks, or buckets. These are common containers used to provide them with hay, grains, or other types of feed.

What Do Horses Eat in the Winter?

During colder months, horses typically eat about two percent of their body weight in hay daily. For example, a 600-kilogram (1,320-pound) horse usually consumes 12 to 15 kilograms (26 to 33 pounds) of hay per day when given free choice. This is roughly equivalent to half of a 65-pound square bale per horse per day.

What Do Horses Eat to Gain Muscle?

Horses with a weak topline may need more protein in their diet. For muscle growth, they require enough energy and protein. The main part of their diet should be good-quality forage, and the choice of hay should match their activity level and specific needs.

What Do Horses Like to Eat as a Treat?

What do horses eat for treats? Horses enjoy treats such as apples, carrots, and commercial horse treats, but moderation is essential to maintain a balanced diet and prevent health issues.


American Association of Equine Practitioners

Penn State Extension

Kentucky Equine Research

Changes Of The Hindgut Microbiota Due To High-Starch Diet Can Be Associated With Behavioral Stress Response In Horses


Aftab Tariq

I am a dedicated content writer with more than five years of experience, particularly skilled in the art of storytelling. My writing journey commenced during my college years, where I pursued journalism and unearthed my talent for creating captivating narratives.

DMCA.com Protection Status