Nutrient Requirements for Horses

Nutrients should be supplied in the amount, form and method that safely and efficiently meet the horse’s requirements. This article provides information on the nutrient needs of horses and how these needs change with age and production status.


Horse grazing

Horses are fed a variety of forms and types of feeds. Diets range from 100 percent pasture forage to 100 percent completely processed mixes. Most horses are fed forage in the form of hay or pasture in combination with a grain …

Antioxidants for Horses

Oxidation increases as the need for energy increases, like during exercise and pregnancy. As oxidation increases, so does the production of ROS, including free radicals, which can damage vital tissues in your horse.This article explores the different antioxidants that affect the horse and the role that they play to protect the horse from oxidative stress.

Oxidation and Oxidative Stress

Oxidation is defined as one of the processes by which energy is obtained from the diet. During this process, nutrients are …

Feeding Schedule for Horses

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Space multiple feedings throughout the day.

The horse’s digestive system is designed to allow small quantities of food to pass through continually during the day. This means that the horse is a continuous grazer. Horses were not designed to consume large quantities of food at a single feeding. Therefore, good feeding management requires that feedings be spaced throughout the day. Numerous small feedings are better than one large one. Horses should be fed a …

Hay Analysis: Its Importance and Interpretation

Horses require a sufficient amount of hay and roughage in their diet. In order to ensure that your horse is receiving the required nutrients, hay is often analyzed for nutrient content and quality. This article explains the two types of hay analysis: visual and chemical.


Having your hay analyzed is a great idea. It is the only way to determine the actual nutrient content of the hay. It is important to know this so that you can be sure …

Feeding a Horse for Maintenance

eating hay

Maintenance is a component of all physiological states, defined as no net gain or loss of any nutrients. The nutrients required for maintenance are utilized for daily body functions, such as: metabolism during rest (heart function, breathing, digestion, nervous tissue function), activity for maintenance (walking to food/water, grazing), and temperature regulation.

Horses at maintenance include those kept in pasture and those occasionally used for work for short periods of time. The energy requirement for maintenance is low and can often …

Feeding a Growing Horse

Two foals

The growing period from birth to 12 months of age is a critical time in a horse’s life because 90 percent of mature height and 80 percent of mature weight are achieved during this time. This surge in growth is largely because foals have a high feed efficiency rate that decreases with age.

All young, growing horses have a high requirement for protein, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and copper for growth and skeletal development. The concentration of lysine in the diet …

Changing the Diet of Horses

Whether it’s the grain, hay, or time on pasture, any change in the horse’s diet should be spread over several days or weeks. Increases in the amount of grain given to a horse should be added at approximately 0.5 pounds per day until the desired amount of grain is reached. Grain increases may be necessary because of an increase in activity level or for a mare during lactation. If the grain amount is increased too quickly, colic or founder may …

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 …