We have all used the old expression “eat like a horse” when hungry or describing someone we know who can eat a great deal of food, however, how much does that actually equate to?
Getting the right diet for your horse is really important in keeping them fit and healthy and is, unfortunately, something which too many owners get wrong.
To make sure your horse is adequately fed and watered all year round, here’s everything you need know about how much you should be feeding your horse.
Plenty of roughage
For the majority of horses, good quality roughage stands as a great base for much of their daily feed.
Roughage is important to provide your horse with the necessary nutrients and to keep the digestive system moving.
According to the Humane Society, the average sized horse should eat between one and two percent of their bodyweight in roughage every day.
So, if the average sized horse weighs 1000 pounds (453kg) then it should eat around 10-20 pounds (4.5-9kg) of hay. This portion should equate to between a quarter and a half of the average hay bale.
It is important that your horse only gets the best quality hay possible. Dusty or mouldy hay can cause irreversible damage to a horse’s respiratory system because of the spores of mould.
If your horse spends the majority of its time in its stables then hay is certainly the best way to provide the majority of its food. However, if your horse spends plenty of time in a field with a wealth of grass to graze on, you can certainly reduce the amount of hay.
The finest quality hay will provide a good amount of nutrition to your horse, however, not all hay is of the finest quality. Because you can’t always guarantee the highest quality, it’s also important to feed your horse grain.
Grains can offer extra nutrients which might not be present in the hay you feed your horse. In particular, grains provide extra protein which is more beneficial to some horses than others.
In terms of how much grain your horse should eat, provide small portions to help supplement their main diet of hay or grass.
If your horse experiences a lot of activity (for example if they compete in racing or show jumping) then these extra proteins are very beneficial. However, if it isn’t the most active horse, these extra proteins are rarely needed.
Horses love fruit, making it a great treat or reward. The important thing to note is that treats should only be occasional and shouldn’t interfere with their regular day to day diet.
Treats are a great way to reward your horse for good behaviour or as a target for them in training.
It is very important to note that there are some fruits and vegetables which are entirely safe for horses and others which shouldn’t be fed to them. Take a look at this article from The Naturally Healthy Horse for a complete rundown.
What NOT to Feed Them
So, you know what is best for your horse to eat on a daily basis, so what should you be avoiding?
We recently put together this helpful infographic titled ’16 Things You Should Never Feed Your Horse’ and it’s worth a read to make sure you provide your horse with the best possible daily feed.
All in all, horses are relatively easy to feed providing you get the balance right. It is also important to note that every horse is different and may require more of one thing than another.