The Horse Feed Guide - What Do I Feed My Horse?

With so many options out there, it’s easy to see how horse owners might be confused about what to feed their beloved companions. But don’t worry. You can clear up any misconceptions by simply considering your horse's specific needs and feed conversion ratio. Check out our guide to selecting the perfect animal feed.

Step One: Consider Your Horse’s Forage 

To stay healthy, a horse needs forage – namely, high-quality grass and hay. Your horse should consume the amount of forage equal to 2 percent of her bodyweight every day.

Before you can select the right feed, you need to understand your horse’s forage activity. If the horse is consuming rich, high-calorie forage, then you should likely select a lower-calorie feed. When your horse forages for older, lower-calorie plant stuff, then she’ll probably need a higher-calorie feed to maintain a healthy body weight.

Step Two: Consider Your Horse’s Day-to-Day Activity 

The more active the horse, the more calories it will need to consume. You can categorize your horse’s activity as light, moderate, heavy, and very heavy. As you climb the categories, you will need to feed your horse additional feed. Horses in the heavy and very heavy categories will fare better with richer feed that’s higher in calories. 

Step Three: Consider Your Horse’s Physical State 

What’s going on in your horse’s life? Is she pregnant or lactating? Has she sustained a recent injury? Depending on her current physiological state, your horse may need to eat higher-calorie feed. She may also need additional vitamins, minerals, or protein content.

Step Four: Consider Your Horse’s Age 

If your horse is not yet full grown, she needs a feed specially formulated to suit her developing body. Feed designed for young horses has a much higher nutritional content for healthy bone, tendon, and muscle growth. A good feed for a young horse will be fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.

Since they can’t digest nutrients as efficiently, older horses also need specially formulated feed. Feed intended for older horses will also have higher protein, mineral, and vitamin content. These foodstuffs are easier to chew, since your older horse may not be able to chew its feed for proper digestion.

Step Five: Consider Your Horse’s Weight 

Some horses gain weight easily, and some struggle to retain it. Your horse will have her own unique metabolism. You should choose an animal feed with a calorie content that matches your horse’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. If your horse has no problem maintaining her weight or even gains weight easily, consider a feed that’s lower in calories. On the other hand, a horse that struggles to maintain a healthy number will do better with a higher-calorie option.

Step Six: Consider a Feed’s Starch and Sugar Content 

To reduce the risk of unwanted disease, choose a horse feed that’s low in starch and sugar. Problems such as insulin resistance, colic, and ulcers have been linked to starchy, sugary feeds. Behavioral issues have also been linked to this type of feed. To maintain optimal health, your horse should stick to a diet that’s high in digestible fiber and protein.

Step Seven: Consider a Feed’s Content Quality 

Similar to step six, you need to consider whether or not the ingredients in your horse’s feed are high in quality. A low-cost feed may contain inferior ingredients – such as grain by-products – that are hard for your horse to digest. Instead, look for a feed that contains high-quality ingredients, like rice bran, soybean meal, or beet pulp. The less processed the ingredients, they better they are for your horse.