Feeding the horse is a complex and skilled process requiring understanding of the nutrient requirements of the individual horse, as well the nutrient value of the different feedstuffs available. There can be serious consequences to both over- and underfeeding and it is very important that horse receives a balanced diet and include the correct amount of vitamins and minerals. For the novice owner or rider, it is best to seek advice and help when deciding what, and how much, to feed your horse, but as a rule of thumb, a horse’s appetite is approximately 2.5 percent of its total body weight.


THE MOST ACCURATE way to weigh a horse is on a weighbridge; but if you do not have access to one, most feed stores sell weight a tape, having established the weight of your horse, some simple arithmetic needs to follow. Divide the weight of the horse by 100, and then multiply the result by 2.5, which give you the weight of food your horse should be receiving.

When using formula like this, it is good idea to feed slightly less than your target amount and monitor how the horse goes. This total weight of food covers both the horse’s concentrates and its roughage, so the next step is to work out the proportion you should feed of one to the other.

This is worked out on a percentage basis and as a rough guide; a horse that is out of work should be on 100 percent roughage (hay, grasses.) with no concentrate. Horses in light work should probably be on roughly 75 percent roughage and 25 percent concentrate; horse in medium work should be on roughly 60 percent roughage and 40 percent concentrate; and the horse in heavy work should be on roughly 50 percent roughage and 50 percent concentrate. This is actually not as confusing as it sounds.

It is a good ideal to practice working out rations for different-sized horses in this way, and very quickly it becomes very easy.


  • Feed little and often as this most closely resembles the horse’s natural way of feeding, and enables them to keep their relatively small stomach constantly about half full.
  • Adjust feeding according to the amount of work that the horse is doing, the time of year, the age of the horse, the size and build of the horse, whether it is grass-kept or stable-kept, its temperament, and the ability of the rider. All these factors affect the type and quantity of food you should feed.
  • Always feed good quality food. Poor quality food can lead to respiratory problems and can be low in nutritional value, leading to costliness.
  • Make sure you feed at regular intervals during the day.The horse quickly establishes a routine and expects its food at certain times; disrupting this can lead to frustration-related vices.
  • Do not feed directly before exercise. The horse’s stomach site behind the diaphragm and if full will restrict the expansion of the lungs. You should allow a minimum of one hour after feeding before exercise, and preferably longer.
  • For the same reason, do not let your horse drink large quantities of water before hard work. If it is likely to do this, then the water should be removed approximately one hour before the work begins.
  • You should allow your horse access to a constant supply of clean, fresh water. If you are not able to do this, make sure you offer it water before it feeds, and not directly afterward. The latter can cause undigested food to be washed through and may cause colic and poor digestion.
  • Using plenty of bulk and roughage in feed will aid the horse’s digestion and keep the digestive tract in good working order.
  • Feed succulent foods daily to aid digestion and to provide vitamins and minerals.
  • Only use clean bowl for feeding and watering.
  • Do not make any sudden changes to the horse’s diet as this can upset the bacterial balance of the gut and lead to poor digestion and colic. Changes should be made gradually over several days.
  • After strenuous exercise, only allow your horse a maximum of about 4-6 pints (2-3.5 liters) of Luke-warm water at a time, with a 20-minute break between each drink. This will prevent large amounts of cold water shocking the system while the horse the horse is still recovering from exertion.