Horse Nutrition 101

Horse nutrition is confusing! So many things to consider for your horse, and then on top of that, every horse has different needs…Where is a new horse owner, or even someone who has been around horses for a while that is now interested in nutrition, to begin?

Here’s a quick list of past blog posts that will give you the basics – a “Horse Nutrition 101” class list, so to speak!

Determining How Much Should Your Horse Eat:

Basic Needs:

Understanding Horse Feeds:

There is much more beyond just these topics, but horse owners should all have a good handle on the basics to keep their horses happy and healthy!

7 Replies to “Horse Nutrition 101”

  1. I have a 6 year old Haflinger gelding weighing 1,000lbs (light riding) who has millions of calcium particules in the bladder and several calcium stones in the urinary tract. My vet recommened removing all calcium and alfalfa from his diet, but did not make any recommendations on feed. Can you assist me in choosing what would be best for him?

    1. Hello Brandy, Thanks for checking in with us. Urinary calculi are fairly common in some species, although not so much in horses. From a dietary perspective, the goal is to meet, but not significantly exceed, mineral requirements and keep Ca:P ratio in the diet in the range of 1.5:1 to 2:1. Alfalfa will have 6:1 ratio and high calcium content, which is why it is to be avoided in this case. Completely removing all calcium from the diet, though, is impossible.

      Here’s our recommendation:
      1. Feed a good quality grass hay and get a forage analysis on it so the mineral content is measured and understood.
      2. If the horse needs additional calories, use Life Design Senior as it has a lower calcium maximum than other feeds. We recognize that your horse is not a senior horse, but Life Design Senior was designed to reduce risk for older horses who may have similar issues, and it works well in younger animals as well.
      3. Make certain that loose salt is offered free choice and that the water supply is excellent. Salt intake and water consumption are useful to make certain urine output is dilute and optimum volume. Limited urine output results in mineral concentration in the urine being higher, so keep the water source flowing!

      We hope this helps, if you have more questions, please let us know. Thanks ~ Gina T.

  2. I was wondering about draft horses and how their daily digestable energy requirements would differ from an average 1100 lb horse?

    1. Hello Anita – Great question. The energy needs of horses go up in proportion to their weight. That is why you find feeding directions on horse feeds listed as “X lbs of feed per 100 lbs of bodyweight”. We often say “You don’t need a different feed for drafts (or miniatures), you just need a different size scoop.” One thing to keep in mind with drafts is that they are typically fairly easy keepers, so once you figure out the suggested range of feed for the size horse you have, you can often feed at the low end of the suggested range.

      Draft horses should still have 1.5 – 2.0% of their bodyweight in hay/pasture per day.
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  3. I run a horse rescue and feed the Safe Choice Senior. I have a horse I got not to long ago that has put on weight enough that my vet said I could start riding him. Should I up his feed now that he is being rode twice a week for 30 minute to an hour. He get 3lbs in the morning and at night too and free choice hay.
    Thank you

    1. Hello Kara,
      Thanks for the question! You are feeding him a good amount now, so the best answer to this question is going to be found in paying attention to the body condition of this new horse as you begin to exercise him.

      Some horses may not need additional calories for that small amount of work, some might. So – keep an eye on his body condition, and if you feel he is not continuing to gain weight as he was prior to adding the exercise, and you want him to continue to add weight, then you will want to up his ration. If you choose to do so, simply up his ration by a 1/2 lb per feeding for a few weeks to see if that additional 1 lb per day will help him.

      Alternatively, if he is continueing to either add weight as desired, or hold his current weight, then you can keep him at the current 6 lbs per day.
      Hope that helps – let us know if you have further questions! Thank you ~ Gayle R.

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