Have you ever wondered what horses need to eat to make sure that they have enough energy and nutrients to take you for a ride? Maybe you picture a mare grazing in a field or reaching out to take a bite from an apple or carrot.
Horses are herbivores, so these are all good guesses. In this post, we’ll enter into horses’ diet in more detail, then we’ll finish by discussing how often to feed horses.
What Horses Eat
Grass is horses’ natural food source and passes smoothly through their digestive system. It also contains silica, which is essential for their dental health. Wild horses can nibble on grass for up to 17 hours a day.
Since it’s often not practical to leave horses out in a pasture all the time or for the whole year, hay or haylage is another option for meeting horses’ dietary requirements. Hay consists of completely dried grass that’s stored in bales. Haylage is semi-dried grass that’s wrapped in layers of plastic and conserves more nutrients than hay.
In their diet, horses need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Most carbohydrates should come from grass or hay, but it’s possible to supplement horses’ diet with grains like oats, either plain or mixed up as concentrates. Combining grains with other ingredients is a way to add extra vitamins and minerals.
It’s okay to feed horses a treat, such as an apple or carrot, every once in a while. Horses also enjoy licking salt blocks, especially in the summer. A salt-vitamin-mineral mix helps meet horses’ nutritional requirements while satisfying their salt craving.
There are certain foods that you should not feed to a horse, including sugary foods, bread, meat, and brans like wheat bran. Members of the cabbage family, such as turnips and broccoli, cause horses discomfort, while potatoes and tomatoes can be toxic for them.
On average, an adult horse should eat enough dry matter daily to be equivalent to about 1.5 to 3 percent of its body weight. The quantity of food and water that a horse requires varies depending on its age, mass, activity level, and metabolism.
Good doer or easy keeper horses easily maintain, and even gain, weight. Hard keeper horses, on the other hand, struggle to maintain an adequate weight.
How Often to Feed Horses
Horses like to eat small amounts of food frequently. They’re happy to just keep grazing all day. Ideally, they have constant access to grass or hay, as well as water.
If they’re inside a stable and that’s not possible, horses should be fed 2 to 3 times a day, with a maximum gap of 8 hours between every feeding. Horses prefer receiving food at the same time every day.
Horses need approximately 5 to 15 gallons of clean water per day. If they don’t have a steady supply available, they should be given water at least twice a day.
What did you learn about horses’ diet? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.