February 02, 2020 5 min read

A balanced and correct diet, together with regular physical activity, will guarantee your horse has a healthy and long life.

How many times a day should you feed your horse? How should you feed it and above all, with what?

Here are some tips on how to feed your horse in a healthy and natural way.

What does the horse eat?

  • Fresh grass: Horses spend most of their time in the pasture eating grass, which is in fact the most natural food for them. But be careful, in the meadow there may be harmful plants for your horse, and we humans must intervene and reclaim the pasture for the safety of our friends.
  • Hay: when seasons and climate prevent your horse from grazing and eating fresh grass, the best choice is hay. This food is simple to store and can be easily fed to your horse. According to the needs of the horse, the quantity must be divided during the times of the day. Always check the composition of the hay, as there are various types on the market that can differ by various herbs and other substances.
  • Water: as for us human beings, water is also a fundamental ingredient in the horse's diet. There should always be plenty of fresh and clean water available to your horse. Don’t be frightened if you see that your horse doesn't drink a lot of water, because if he eats a lot of fresh grass, he may not feel the need for it!
  • Salt and minerals: you can hang a piece of salt in your horse's paddock. When he feels like it, he will go and lick it, feeding on the mineral salts necessary for a healthy and balanced diet. Many people prefer to leave the salt only in the summer months, when the horse needs to supplement the lost mineral salts more.
  • Prizes: After a tough training session where the horse has collaborated with us, we can leave a prize. The most popular prizes are pieces of carrot, apples and other pieces of fruit and vegetables that the horse likes. This is a good way to reward him at the end of a good workout, just be careful, however, not to overdo the sugary food that could cause colic.
  • Feed: there are many types of horse feed on the market and with different nutritional values ​​based on whether your horse is young, elderly, sedentary or very athletic. Usually they contain only compounds of oats, barley, corn, bran, flax seeds, and other vitamins. If the feed is the staple food in your horse's diet, it must be administered in certain doses, which are between 2 and 4 kg, based on the protein content contained in the feed and on the type of activity carried out by the horse.

How much does a horse eat?

brown horse feeding

Food rations should be between 1.5-3% of the horse's body weight. This percentage is calculated net of the water contained in the food.

For example: a horse weighing 800 kg must eat at least 8-16 kg of raw feed per day.

The quantity of food always varies according to the horse's activity and age, however.

It’s important to note that it is better not to ride the horse too soon after finishing a large meal, let him rest and digest before training.

A horse's stomach cannot accommodate very large quantities of food, and for this reason it is necessary to divide the rations during the day. And be careful not to exceed the daily food limit, which could cause the horse to collapse.

How to feed your horse:

horse feeding on grass

It’s best to feed your horse several times a day, and on a regular basis: horses love routine! The ideal would be to be able to feed him two or three times a day, if it is not possible, the important thing is not to leave the horse without food for more than 6-8 hours.

Make sure to serve the food in clean containers, possibly raised off the ground and away from dirt. By ensuring the cleanliness of the food, you will prevent your horse from ingesting any bacteria that could cause intestinal problems. For this reason, also make sure to clean the box regularly, possibly several times a day.

What your horse should not eat:

An unbalanced diet can lead your horse to have serious health problems. In fact, foods that can ferment and produce gas inside the intestines should be avoided. The horse's stomach, which is not very large, may expand too much, and in extreme cases, lead to death.

Here is the list of foods that must be absolutely avoided:

  • Fresh leavened foods: the administration of large quantities of these foods can lead to renal colic, which is the main cause of death for horses.
  • Toxic plants: by their nature, horses select plants to eat guided by the sensitive whiskers around their nose and lips. They know what's best to avoid eating! However, to avoid irreparably damaging a horse’s internal organs, never let him eat these plants: badger, hemlock, castor, oleander or thimble.
  • Vegetables belonging to the cabbage family: they are dangerous because, during digestion, they give off a large quantity of gas that could potentially damage the horse's intestine.
  • Chocolate: the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can cause tremors, hyperactivity and convulsions, as well as cardiac irregularity and damage to the nervous system, which could lead to the death of the animal in a few hours.
  • Hay with mold: Mold and fungus can easily grow if the hay bale is stored in a humid place, or if the hay has not dried thoroughly before packing. A horse that swallows hay with these toxic substances may suffer from a respiratory infection called Aspergillosis. This disease can also be deadly for horses.

Important warning: it is best not to cut vegetables into cubes or rings as the horse could suffocate. It is better to cut the vegetables lengthwise, almost as if they were hay. Alternatively, you can leave the vegetables whole.

How to tell if your horse is overweight:

Excess body fat puts the horse's health at risk with problems ranging from respiratory and heart fatigue, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as difficulty in movement that could lead to poor mobility.

To estimate the body condition of the horse it is good to establish the Body Condition Score (BCS). This parameter is an indicator of the amount of fatty deposits and is obtained by evaluating the general appearance of the horse.

The scores range in scale from 0 to 10, where 5 is a horse of normal build and 10 is an obese horse.

The evaluation can be done visually, even if it implies having a great experience. Alternatively, the extent of the fat deposit is measured by feeling various areas of the horse; by making small pressures and circular movements, the fat thickness is in fact measured and, after a general evaluation, the "Body Condition Score" (BCS) is attributed to the horse.

For any other information on the health of your horse, remember to contact your trusted veterinarian, who will be able to advise you better and customize a diet according to the exacting specifications of your horse!

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