Selecting Horse Hay

Multiple hays for horses

Good quality hay is essential, since hay constitutes a large majority of the horse’s diet. Several factors influence the quality of hay. Any of the common hays can be fed to horses, but what’s most important is nutrient value in relation to the cost of the hay. To evaluate the quality of hay, the following questions should be considered:

1. At what stage was the hay harvested?
Nutrient value largely depends on the age at which the hay was harvested.

Feeding Horses by Weight, Not Volume

Grain Scoop - measuring weight

All concentrates do not weigh the same.

For example:

A 3-lb coffee can full of

32 lb/bushel oats = 2 1/2 lbs
34 lb/bushel oats = 4 lbs
corn or pellets = 5 lbs

Therefore, a coffee can full of oats is not the same as a coffee can full of pellet or sweet feed. This doesn’t mean you can’t use the coffee can method to feed your horses. Simply weigh out the appropriate amount of concentrate and mark the …

Group Feeding of Horses

Foals eating from a creep feeder


In a herd situation, horses establish a dominance hierarchy–a pecking order. In group feeding, you must keep this hierarchy in mind. Aggressive or dominant horses eat more than their share by chasing away others from the feed tubs, and timid horses do not get enough. For this reason, adequate feeder space should be available.

Young horses show little aggressive dominant behavior towards other horses during feeding. Mature horses, however, will show aggressive dominant behavior towards their pasture mates during …

Feeding Frequency for Horses

Feeding Guidelines

When feeding the horse, there are three general guidelines one should follow.

  1. Feeds should be fed at least twice a day.
  2. Feeds should be fed in equally divided amounts.
  3. Feeds should be fed near to or at the same time each day and at even intervals throughout the day.

Let’s look at the reasons why farm managers, nutritionists, and veterinarians follow these guidelines.

In the wild or out on pasture, horses eat frequently as they graze throughout the …

Grain Feeding for Horses

Feeding Grain

Horses should be provided the grain meal at the same time as feeding forages. Like hay, grain should be fed from a feeder instead of on the ground to decrease feed losses and contamination by urine and feces. Feeding grain on the ground also increases the horse’s consumption of dirt, which may accumulate in the large intestine and eventually cause sand colic or intestinal impactions. Grain can be provided in wooden, plastic, or rubber feed buckets, feed bags, …

Common Feeding Programs for Horses

Class of Horse Determines Nutrient Requirements

Horse Head

The National Research Council (1989) has published a guide to feeding horses entitled “Nutrient Requirements of Horses.” These requirements are based on several factors, including:

  • class of the horse
  • body weight
  • body condition
  • stage of production
  • age
  • activity level
  • growth.

Diet selection for each class or activity level of the horse will depend on the nutrient requirements for that particular class of horse and which ingredients are selected to meet those requirements. Horses should …

Slowing Down the Fast Eating Horse

Encourage aggressive horses to eat slowly.

Horses that eat fast and aggressively should be encouraged to eat more slowly. Horses that bolt their food have a tendency not to chew it before swallowing. There are several management tactics to use to slow aggressive eaters:

  1. Feed in large shallow troughs.
  2. Put bricks or softball-size rocks in the feed trough.
  3. Feed extruded feeds.
  4. Mix in chopped hay.
  5. Mount a wire ring inside the feed trough.

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Water Intake and Electrolyte Supplementation for Horses

Of the five basic nutrient groups – protein, carbohydrates and fats (energy sources), water, minerals and vitamins – water is the most essential to your horse.

Research has clearly shown that horses deprived of water for three to four days will not consume feed. A minor reduction in water intake or an increase in sweat loss will eventually cause dehydration, which can result in decreased performance, shock and possibly death.

This publication will clarify the water requirements of horses …

Nutritional Concerns for Exercising Horses

Exercise can place large nutrient demands on the horse, and intense management is necessary to ensure adequate intakes of balanced rations for exercising horses. This article explains the different types of exercise and how the nutritional requirements of horses change based on age, type and degree of exercise.

The horse is a unique specie of livestock in that its primary purpose is for pleasure or work. Equine nutritionists have long been concerned with supplying the correct amounts and types of …