Horse Nutrition and Feeding Management

Basic feeding tips

Horses graze by nature. Feed smaller amounts more often.
Good quality hay or forage should form the basis for all feeding programs.
Make no sudden feed changes. Alter the diet over a 7 to 10 day period, so the digestive system can adjust.
Provide free choice access to salt (preferably trace-mineralized) at all times.
Provide mineral supplementation.
Provide free choice clean water at all times and in all seasons. Eating snow is not sufficient as a water source in winter.
Assessment of body condition is an important indicator that the horse is getting enough nutrients. You should always feed your horse to maintain a body condition score from 4 to 5 (on the 9-point scale, with 1 being extremely thin and 9 being extremely fat). Adjust feed intake accordingly.
Remember, horses are individuals and should be managed and fed as individuals. Segregation of horses may be necessary.

Horses on pasture

Three to five acres of good pasture are required to graze one horse during the summer.
Spring growth is more nutrient rich than summer or fall growth.
Avoid alsike clover in horse pastures and hay, because it can cause liver damage and photosensitivity.
Mature horses generally get fat on good pasture. Pasture may need to be restricted.
Overfeeding and related problems are more common than underfeeding.
Horses still need access to minerals, free choice salt and fresh clean water while on pasture at all times.
In winter, provide supplementation with hay and possibly grain.
Feedstuffs contain the nutrients energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. The right combination of feedstuffs needs to be chosen to meet the nutrient requirements of your horse.


Energy is the main component of horse feeds, and it includes the starches, sugars, cellulose (fibre) and fat in plants. If the horse does not receive enough energy, it will lose weight, or with young horses, it will not grow. Excess energy is stored as fat.