Tips for Feeding Your Horse


The amount and type of feed your horse requires will vary according to his weight and how you use and manage him. A successful feeding practice provides the basic feed requirements for body maintenance, growth, work, and reproduction.

The first and important use of feed is for body maintenance. Additional nutrients are needed for growth, work, gestation, milk production, and lying on body fat.

Young animals need protein for building muscles, bones, hair, and hooves. Mature horses need less protein until pregnancy and lactation increases their needs.

Don’t overlook water in your horse’s diet. Water is necessary to all life processes. It carries nutrients and regulates body temperature. An animal can survive much longer without feed than he can without water.

Always have fresh, clean, cool water available, except when a horse is hot from work. Permit a warm horse only a light drink to refresh him.

With proper supplements, most feeds, useful to farm animals make satisfactory horse feeds after the horse becomes accustomed to their odor and taste. Horses digest some types of feeds more easily than other types.

Roughage’s (hay and pasture) are high in fiber and relatively low in digestible nutrients (50 percent). Concentrates (grain) are low in fiber and high in digestible nutrients (about 75 percent).

Daily Feed Requirements

Feeding for Maintenance Energy:

The nutrients required to maintain your horse vary with his weight and his work.

The daily requirement per 1,000 pounds live weight for an idle horse is 1.5 percent of his body weight.

This is approximately equal to 15 pounds of good quality hay per day. Grain can supplement the working horse’s daily diet.

Protein: Good quality pasture, or as little as 6 pounds of good quality alfalfa hay per day, supply the protein requirements of a 1,000- pound horse.

Vitamins: Green pasture, or 3-5 pounds of quality Green hay per day, usually will meet the maintenance requirements of 12.5 international units (I.U.) of Vitamin A per 100 pounds of body weight. Levels of 18 I.U. per 100 pounds of body weight are adequate for weanlings. Pregnant and lactating (nursing) mares require Vitamin A, 25 I.U. per 100 pounds of body weight.

Minerals: Twenty-five grams per day of calcium and 17 grams per day of phosphorus are required to maintain a mature 1,000- pound horse. Pregnant and lactating mares and young growing horses need more.

Provide salt-free choice, particularly when animals are sweating heavily. A trace minerals alt will supply other minerals needed unless there is an unusual deficiency.

Feeding working horses, pregnant and lactating mares.

Your horse needs more food for energy when his work is increased. However, he will not need more protein than is required for maintenance, so the food supplied for energy will give him an ample amount of protein.

The pregnant mare requires nutrients for maintenance, development of the fetus, increased body heat during gestation, and for any work she performs. A lactating mare may produce 3-4 gallons of milk (25 – 32 pounds) per day.

Milk production requires additional nutrients for protein and for energy. Also, a lactating mare requires two to three times her maintenance requirement of Vitamin A and calcium phosphorus.

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