What do horses eat?

Por Horse TV
NEWS | Lifestyle

Horses are herbivorous animals, which means that they feed primarily on plants. Their digestive system is adapted to consume a diet based on plant fibers, such as hay and grass. Despite their large size, horses have a relatively small stomach and a fragile digestive system.

It is important to provide them with a balanced and adequate diet to maintain their health and energy.

The quality and quantity of feed should be adjusted according to the age, activity level and general health of the horse.

In addition, a high water intake is important, drinking about 40 liters per day.

What are the recommended foods?

Ideally, their food should be divided into several daily portions so that they do not suffer digestive problems due to their reduced stomach. It is also important that they spend several hours between meals so that they can digest properly.

Grasses, green fodder

The main food for horses is grass or, failing that, hay. Natural grass is that which is eaten by free-ranging horses, commonly known as pasture. This grass is one of the best options since it basically provides the best possible nutrients.

However, if it is a domestic horse, that is to say, we are not dealing with a wild horse, the best substitute for natural grass is hay. Hay is a set of very nutritious grasses, it is the best option when the horse cannot graze. It is produced by natural drying of grass, legumes or other forage plants, such as alfalfa or ryegrass.


Grains such as oats, barley and corn can be part of a horse's diet, especially for those with additional energy needs due to their work.

Oats are one of the most popular grains for horses. It is easy to digest and provides slow-release energy. It can be given as whole oats or crushed oats.

Corn is high in calories and is used to provide additional energy. However, it must be processed (cooked, mashed) to make it easier to digest.

Barley is another grain that provides energy, but is used less frequently than oats and corn. It also needs to be processed to make it more digestible.


Feed constitutes and adds to the caloric intake that must be provided to a horse in captivity. There is not only one type of feed and its choice will depend on the age, the training, the physical work done daily... It is necessary to differentiate between compound and concentrated feed.

There are specific compound feeds for horses that come in the form of pellets or muesly. These pellets contain a balanced mix of grains, minerals, vitamins and often fiber.

Concentrated feeds are called those that are artificially manufactured by humans. It is a complete and balanced nutritional option designed to meet the dietary needs of horses. These feeds are formulated to provide the right combination of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber to maintain the health and performance of horses.


Some horses may need mineral and vitamin supplements to cover deficiencies in their diet. Salt has sodium and chloride, components that horses lose through sweat. Vitamins should only be given if directed by the veterinarian, in case of deficiency.

Oils such as linseed oil are often added to the diet to improve skin and coat condition. Oils and fats can be useful components in a horse's diet, providing additional calories and essential fatty acids. However, they must be administered carefully and in adequate amounts to avoid health problems.

Fruits and Vegetables (Treats)

Horses can enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables as treats, but it is important to offer these foods in moderation and know which ones are safe for them.

Apples, carrots, bananas and pears are the safest and most common. So are celery, cucumber, squash and beets.

However, it is important to know that you should avoid offering fruits and vegetables with additives or spices. And, some fruits, such as grapes and cherries, are toxic to horses and should be avoided altogether.

Tips for optimal horse nutrition

Providing our equine friends with an optimal diet is essential for their health, vitality and performance. Here are 5 tips that will help your horse's diet.

Combination of herbs and feed

The basis of a horse's diet should be quality forage, such as hay or grass. This should always be supplemented with feed to add the necessary caloric intake.

As we have already mentioned, schedules and feed intake are very important, so the ideal would be three feed intakes; one in the morning, one at noon and one before sunset and three forage intakes alternating with the feed. That is, fodder-fodder-fodder-fodder-fodder-fodder.

The order and timing of feed intake are very important, it is vital to start with a soft feed, such as grass, since this is the natural food of these animals. The horse's digestion should start with a soft feed.

Adequate Hydration

A horse must have constant access to clean, fresh water. Adequate hydration is essential for health and proper functioning of the digestive system.

These animals require between 18 and 56 liters of water daily.

Nutritional Balance

Provide a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts. In the section above, we have provided some foods that can be included in your equine's diet.

However, it is important to consult an equine nutritionist to determine your horse's specific needs.

As we have already mentioned, your horse will need more or less feed depending on its weight, activity, breed, etc. However, keep in mind that its nutritional needs vary depending on the type of forage it consumes, as some give more energy than others, and the type of activity it performs. You must evaluate what he does to determine if you should increase or subtract the amount of feed you give him.

Avoid Excess Treats

Fruits and vegetables are delicious, but should be given in moderation to avoid excess sugars and calories. Some fruits, such as grapes, are toxic and should be avoided altogether.

Small rations

You must keep in mind that the horse has a small stomach. This means that it is not able to hold a large amount of food inside. However, due to the energy it expends it requires small rations but several times a day.

It is also important to be aware of your horse's weight. Being overweight can lead to health problems such as obesity and insulin resistance. Adjust diet and activity level as needed to maintain a healthy weight.

Knowing what horses eat is not only essential for their physical well-being, but also for cultivating a deeper connection between horse and human. By understanding their dietary needs and carefully providing them with what they need, we are strengthening the ties that bind us to these amazing animals.

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