What Horses Eat

Wondering what horses eat? A horse needs to eat two to three percent of its body weight every day to maintain its current weight. If you have an active or a growing horse, it will need more than that. Lactating horses will also need more feed and water to support their foals.

Choosing Horse Foods
The best foods are those that the horse can forage for, such as grass or hay. These should be available in the horse's pasture. Bermuda grass is particularly nutritious, but it won't grow throughout the year in colder climates.

Horses will graze on whatever grasses or hay are available, but they may not get enough nutrition from them. Non-pelleted feed should be given as horse food supplements to provide vitamins and minerals.

Encouraging Healthy Digestion
A horse's digestive system is not designed to digest pelleted feed and whole grains. Horses have small stomachs, so it's important to limit food to five pounds per feeding.

Free choice forage is the best way to feed a horse. This means allowing the horse to graze in the pasture, as it will eat when it needs to eat, and it will eat a little at a time. Allowing a horse to graze in the pasture also helps prevent the formation of ulcers due to an empty stomach.

Foraged food digests in the hind gut, not in the stomach. When food is digested in the hind gut, it is broken down into volatile fatty acids. The fatty acids provide energy and heat, helping a horse to maintain body temperature, which is crucial during cold winter months.

Additional Foods
Horses also like some fruits, especially apples, and vegetables. A good whole vegetable for horses is a carrot. Corn mash is also good for horses.

If you're making horse treats, add small bits of peppermint, molasses, carrots, apples and oats. Unsweetened applesauce and water make excellent binders for biscuits and cookies. Don't give treats too often, as the high calories and fat content can quickly make your horse obese.

A horse should have a salt lick that is easy to access. Horses don't get much salt from their regular diet, so a supplement is needed. In warm climates and during the summer months, the salt lick can be kept in a covered area in the pasture. During the winter, it's a good idea to attach the salt lick to a stall wall, especially if the horse spends a lot of time inside. Horses will shun water during the wintertime; licking salt encourages them to get a healthy amount of water.

Watering a Horse
Horses drink between five and eight gallons of water each day. Fresh water should always be available in the pasture and in the stall. Clean water buckets and change them at least three times a day. Troughs should be cleaned and refilled twice a day.

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