Feeding horses

Guidelines for feeding horses

Horses are grazing animals and their natural food is grass.

They will graze constantly for around 20hrs out of 24hrs, taking a mouthful of grass then moving forward a few steps before taking another mouthful.

Spend a few minutes by the field gate and you will see this for yourself.

When we stable a horse the grass is replaced with hay and concentrates (hard feed that we give in a bucket)If required.

Horses have small stomachs, so they require small amounts of food little and often.

Horses thrive on routine, so stick to the same feeding times each day.

Some horses get stressed when feed is due and there is no one there to feed them, so  If you know you’re going to run late, then ask someone to put a hay net in for you, until you arrive.

It’s just as important to stick to a routine when feeding the grass kept pony, as they too enjoy routine and will be waiting for you, especially during the winter months when little grass is available.

If you don't stick to a routine in the winter months, the horse will hang around the gate for hours waiting for you while he could be grazing.

When you have several horses waiting at the gate, your horse is at a much greater risk of being kicked by another horse; as they are all anxiously waiting for someone to feed them.

Behaviour such as weaving can develop if a horse is stressed.

 As we know horses are trickle feeders, that feed little and often.

When stabled we need to mimic this natural behaviour by feeding small amounts of feed several times a day, providing a constant supply of food through the digestive system.

This is how to feed a horse.

What you feed your horse depends on the condition and what you want him to do.

But whatever you require from your horse they all need plenty of roughage or fibre which can be made up of hay, hay ledge, chaff etc.

Roughage is important in order for the horse to digest food. If you feed hay or hay ledge, always make sure it’s good quality.

Never feed a horse mouldy forage as it may cause colic or internal problems.

If the hay you are feeding is not the best, soak it first before feeding.

The only downside to this is it will lose some of its nutrition contents, but it’s still the better option.

Horse watering

Something else to remember is a horse needs a constant supply of fresh water.

On hot sunny days a horse will drink more water, so make sure water is always available.

If you have worked your horse hard, allow him to have a little drink, and then take away his water bucket until he has cooled off.

If the horse is allowed to drink too much, there is a chance he could get colic.

Feeding horses

How much should I feed my horse?

The more you work a horse, the more feed it will need to sustain its workload.

When it comes to feeding it’s not straight forward.

All horses are different and you need to take into account the size of the horse e.g. 16.2hh, his age, condition (overweight, underweight), how much work he does a day and not forgetting his temperament.

Some horses are highly strung and need little or no hard feed.

Equine diet

Horses have a delicate stomach, so whatever you feed your horse on, if you decide to change his feed it should always be done gradually.

This also includes hay or hay ledge which should be mixed with the usually fibre (roughage), so you are allowing the horse’s gut time to adapt to the changes in his diet.

If you are planning to ride your horse after feeding him, allow time for his feed to digest.

I would leave at least an hour after he has finished eating.

So but the time you brush him and tack up, his food should be fully digested. Good hygiene is important at all times.

A horse needs to properly digest his food before being ridden.

All feed and water buckets should be cleaned on a daily basis.

Horses have a very good sense of small and many are fussy and will refuse to eat despite the food being fresh.

Scroll down from feeding horses for more information on what to feed your horse.

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Feeding   horses

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Feeding - Weight and condition

What percentage of hay to hard food should I feed?

How much food to feed?

Horse feeding guide

Geared toward first time horse owners and anyone else who wants to learn more about horses.