How Much Food Does a Horse Eat a Day?

Horse Grazing

Unlike any other humans, horses do not ever get full when eating. The truth is, they can actually eat twice as much the needed amount of hay without having a single belch! These equines spend more time eating than to any other activity. Hence, they can get higher probability of becoming overweight if owners do not control the amount of hay feeding for their horses.

As a matter of fact, horses do not possess that ability to control their eating habits and they wouldn’t really know whether they have already met the needed nutrients and all. Another thing here is that they just don’t stop eating not until they get tired of chewing!

If this kind of behavior will not be controlled among horses by the fellow owners and care-takers, this might lead to some digestion and lameness problem. Becoming overweight is not just the issue here but also becoming below a weight carrier. They can eat way beyond the required amount but on the contrary, some horses eat less making them the malnourished type.

We can say that feedings and forage are what constitute most of whole being and productivity of horses. Their body mainly depends on the food that they eat and like humans, they need food to survive and thrive. As we truly care for our horses, we will try to enlist all the needed things that we must know on how much food we should give to our horses considering their incontrollable food loving behavior.

So how much food does a horse needs to eat each day? Knowing the right amount of hay feeding is really an essential part of giving them proper care. Since horses can over-eat grasses, they can easily get fat if you just let them eat how much they wanted to. The optimal amount or the required amount of horses’ feeds greatly depend on its total weight. Based on a study conducted in a ministry of agriculture in Ontario, an adult horse should consume about 15-20lbs (7kg to 9kg) of hay each day. This means that a horse should take food that is 1.5% – 3% of its body weight a day.

That certain amount of food is just an estimated amount while the required amount for different horses may depend on one’s workload, metabolic activity, environmental condition and the type of food that they are actually eating.

The Horse’s Ingestive Behavior

Grazing time among horses mainly depends on three factors: (a) the type and availability of food, (b) consumption behavior and (c) level of nutrient demand.

During problematic times like drought, horses’ food eating behavior changes depending on the amount of food that is available in the competitive environment. They are likely to eat whatever food is present caused by too many limited greens that can be found in the surroundings. However, on the exact opposite of this scenario, the horse will be more likely to develop a new pattern of consumption since more food is becoming more available in a certain area. With this, a more varied food type can be considered. When it comes to nutrient requirements, horses may feed on poor-quality pasture way longer than those with high-quality pastures, however, like what I have said earlier, this kind of food habit should always be watched out by fellow owners and care-takers.

Calculating the right amount of food for your horse

On this part, we will try to help you determine the right amount of hay feedings needed to consume by your horse, so he can be able to get a balanced diet. This can also be followed to prevent your horse from becoming overconditioned nor malnourished.

Step 1: As an owner, you should always know how much does your horse weighs with the aid of weigh bridge or a weigh tape.

Step 2: As I have formerly stated, the amount of food that a horse must consume should fall under the 1.5% – 3% of its body weight hence, this one should be calculated after knowing the weight of your horse. Keep in mind that your horse’s weight is a whole lot more important to consider than its height.

Step 3: The ratio of the concentrates and the forages must be fully calculated considering the known amount of total feedings that your horse must consume. This part can be done by trying out different ratios (incrementally or not sudden) until finding out the best amount of food for your horse with all the workload that must be done by your horse if it’s a working horse.

Related Questions:

What is the difference between the required food amount of ponies and draft breeds?

Since ponies are the exceptionally different type of horses with their very efficient metabolisms, they need less amount of hay feedings but still depends on their total weight. On the other way around, draft horses need more than the usual ratio of hay each day since most of these breeds tend to have a huge workload. As an owner, it is really essential to give attention to your horses’ feeding needs with taking into consideration the kind of breed that they belong as well as the kind of work and activities that they execute each day.

How do horses become “spot grazers”?

Horses use their different senses in selecting or spotting their food such as their sight, touch, taste as well as their sense of smell. Among these four, taste is what more likely to influence a horse’s food choice. They tend to select the tastiest part of their hay feeding while leaving the undesirable parts of the feeding or those that do not taste really good for them. However, when food availability becomes less, the food selectivity also decreases.

Should you change feed and feed schedules gradually?

The answer is yes. Whenever you get to change your horse’s type of food and ration amount, make the shift gradually. Sudden changed on their food feeding regardless of the amount and type may cause them some digestive problems.

When is the best time that can a horse starts working after consuming food hays?

Always keep in mind that a horse’s full digestive system provides less room for better breathing making them move and exercise much harder and making them feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, after a huge work done on the field, a horse should have enough rest before hay feeding.



I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

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