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Basic Components of Your Horse’s Diet

March 15, 2014

You’ve decided it’s time to welcome a horse into your active family, and you’re making lots of advance preparations before bringing your new mare Rosie home. You’ve got enough acreage to support Rosie’s grazing needs, and you’ve prepared a nice barn stall that will shelter her in bad weather. You’ve even scheduled Rosie’s first visit with your Black Hills veterinarian. While you’ve assembled some basic nutritional guidelines, your vet can help you fine-tune Rosie’s diet.


Roughage Rules

Since Rosie will be grazing in her beautiful green pasture, and you’ll truck in some hay to supplement that, she should be enjoying a nice vegetarian buffet every day.  This roughage will keep her digestive system functioning smoothly, and her body will welcome the nutrients these grassy foods provide. Generally, she should eat 1 to 2 percent of her body weight in roughage-based foods every day.


Mini Grain Meals

While most of Rosie’s calories should come from roughage, you might supplement this grassy diet with regular servings of grain. Ideally, Rosie’s digestive system would like several small grain meals daily, as her body can more easily utilize the smaller portions’ nutrients. Also, Rosie is naturally inclined to eat smaller grainy snacks instead of gorging herself with one giant tub of grain each day.


Portion Control

Remember that Rosie’s dietary needs will be different from those of your neighbor’s horse. Consider Rosie’s size and the amount of exercise, or work, she’ll do on a regular basis. If you provide her with high-quality pasture grass, you can minimize the amount of hay she consumes. However, if your region experiences a drought, or during the winter, you’ll definitely want to add some hay into Rosie’s diet. When allocating Rosie’s grain portions, begin with the minimum amount she might need, and add more if necessary. Over time, you’ll determine the correct mix of pasture grass, hay, and grain Rosie requires. Remember to recalculate her food portions if her activity level changes.


Regular Routine

Rosie loves a daily routine, so make sure you feed her at the same time each day. In fact, Rosie’s internal time clock is so accurate that she might meet you at the pasture fence, waiting for her grain handouts. When your Black Hills vet sees Rosie again, he can greet a well-fed horse who enjoys lots of love and attention from her family.

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