Horse Feed

Proper horse feeding information

Advertiser Links for Horse Feed
[what's this?]

Perhaps you've heard the expression "eats like a horse" to describe someone with a big appetite? Well, there's some truth behind the saying: it is estimated that horses eat between 2 and 3 percent of their body weight daily. But more important than quantity of horse feed is quality — it's vital that your horse receive the proper nutrients.

Equine nutrition can be as complex as human nutrition. A horse's ideal diet varies by age, physical condition, daily activities (does it pull loads or is it just for pleasure riding?) and even breed. However, there are some basic rules.

Horse Nutrition

At least three-quarters of your horse's diet should be forage, meaning hay, of which there are two varieties: grass (such as Timothy, orchard) or legumes (like clover or alfalfa). Whichever you prefer, make sure it is fresh — moldy hay can cause severe health problems.

Another important part of a horse's diet is grains, which are higher in energy and lower in fiber than forage. Popular grains include oats, barley and corn. Of the three, corn has the most energy content by far, while oats are the easiest to digest and usually don't require processing.

Processed types of horse feed are available from many pet food companies, but keep in mind that horses' bodies are designed to run optimally on natural food like grasses and grains. For senior horses or foals, however, a processed horse food could help guarantee proper amounts of important minerals.

Horse Feed Supplements

Not every horse needs nutritional supplements. If your horse is healthy and used mostly for riding, it shouldn't need special dietary enhancements. However, if your horse performs regular, hard work or is expecting or nursing a foal, you might consider adding horse supplements to its diet.

Also, keep in mind that nutrients in forage come from the soil in which the plants are grown, so if you live in an area with nutrient-deficient soil, your hay is probably lacking important nutrients that should be supplemented.

Five minerals are commonly added to horse feed: calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur and salt. To make this part of horse feeding easy, salt blocks can be enhanced with the other minerals. A bonus to salt licks is that horses will only lick them when they need to, so there's no need to worry about overconsumption.