Basic Equine Nutrition

Basic Equine Nutrition

To ensure your horse is healthy and working at its best ability, you will need to ensure it is getting the correct nutrition.

Horses are grazing animals and so they tend to eat small amounts of food throughout the day. 

A horse’s digestive system is very delicate, if they eat something that is poisonous they cannot regurgitate anything and so you should be careful as to what they have access to. They are also sensitive to rapid changes in their diet, sometimes causing colic which can in the worse scenario lead to death. You can read more about colic

Essentials

An average horse will only need a good quality forage (grass or hay), water and perhaps a salt or mineral block. Grains or other feeds are also fed sometimes, when doing so the amount should be carefully monitored. The amount you should feed will depend on the size, age and activity of the horse. Although a vet will be able to advise exactly what is suitable. 

Where it is not possible to provide access to continuous feed, 3 small meals a day is normally acceptable rather than one or two large ones.

Water

Horses should have constant access to fresh drinking water at all times to avoid dehydration. Ideally, they should not be kept from having water available to them for more than four hours. 

After exercise, horses will need to be cooled down, giving them regular sips of water will help them to do so. If they are especially hot you should avoid giving them freezing cold water. As the other way, if they are cold the water should be lukewarm. 

To encourage your horse to drink you can add electrolytes to their feed or additives to the water such as apple juice. 

Treats

Horses do not need treats as part of their diet, however many horse owners enjoy giving them a treat now and again to show their affection.

Popular treats include carrots, sugar cubes, mints and apples. Care should be taken when giving horses a treat so that they do not choke or get colic from over feeding. Some owners choose not to give their horses treats for these reasons. In case of a veterinary emergency such as colic or choke, you should ensure your horse is insured to cover you for any fees that may occur. You can find out more about horse insurance  

Another reason treats may not be given is due to the behavioural issues that can come from giving too many treats such as biting.

Feed Storage

All feed including hay must be kept clean, dry and free of mould or rodent faeces as this may cause severe illness in horses. If you are storing hay outside, it should be kept covered and regularly checked for animals burrowing inside it.

You should also make sure that your horse can not get access to their feed as they may fancy a snack whilst you are not looking and end up overeating, potentially causing colic or weight issues.