We all know the consequences of overfeeding any pet or animal, let alone a horse since they’re often outdoors and we can’t manage them all the time, so how much hay does a horse eat in a day? We’ll find out the answer to that in this article.
Whether you are managing a single horse or if you have a multitude in your barn or stables, you should know just how to feed your horse since their health depends on it. Too much food will lead to tummy problems and you wouldn’t want that!
Therefore, this feeding guide will help you to choose the right amount of food, or in this case, hay, for your horse to consume.
- 1 How much hay does a horse eat in a day?
- 2 How to feed your horse
- 2.1 Feed them frequently but in small amounts
- 2.2 Consider easy access to the hay
- 2.3 Horses with obesity problems need to be watched
- 2.4 Consider adding little amounts of roughage
- 2.5 Learn to adjust between seasons
- 2.6 Always make food changes gradually
- 2.7 Use measuring tools for feeding your horse
- 2.8 Train your horse to stick to the schedule
- 2.9 Don’t feed them before or after physical activity
- 3 Conclusion
How much hay does a horse eat in a day?
The rule of thumb should be about 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day for a 1,000-pound horse. However, you can increase or decrease that number based on the following:
1. Your horse’s weight
A horse’s weight will depend on its breed. An average horse will weigh 1,000 pounds but some breeds, such as draft horses, will be heavier at about 2,000 pounds.
Measure your horse’s weight, as well as the weight of the food that they will be fed. We already gave the rule of thumb above but this is just an estimation, as there are also other factors below, such as physical activity, that will contribute to your horse’s hunger, so be wary of that.
2. What your horse does daily
Horses that are often seen working as draft breeds and are on farms will need a lot more food because of their workload. With that said, a different nutritional intake will also be required for show or competition needs since that can focus on the horse’s appearance and special skills rather than hard-working stamina under the sun (or in the blistering cold).
3. The time of the year
The winter season is a difficult time of the year for horse keeping. That’s because pastures aren’t green anymore so you’re stuck with limited supplies of hay for your farm buddy. With this in mind, you should take into consideration how much hay you feed to your horse so that your horse won’t feel inadequate and look for more. Feeding them in smaller amounts and frequently will work.
In the summer, the pastures are green so that your horse can easily graze anytime that they want. However, be aware that this will cause a problem of overeating so they should be watched over carefully. You wouldn’t want a horse to be overfed because that will lead to a couple of health problems. While the hay is abundant in the warm seasons, there should still be discipline for your horse.
4. Your horse’s breed
A draft breed, such as the Belgian Draft, will need to be fed more hay than usual due to their intense fieldwork requiring a lot of energy. These breeds are allowed to eat up to 30 pounds of hay daily.
A pony, on the other hand, only needs a smaller amount of hay since they have a slower metabolism, smaller frame, and are usually not in a rigorous job compared to their bigger counterparts. In most cases, you may only need to give them flakes.
5. Their natural metabolism
Aside from the breed differences, some horses do have different metabolism rates. Try observing your horse’s eating habits and see for yourself which horse tends to eat and get hungry again the fastest. Feeding a horse with a slow metabolism is tricky because they are more prone to bloating and tummy problems, especially if they aren’t meant for difficult jobs.
How to feed your horse
Feeding your hose with the right amount of hay is one problem, but feeding them in the right manner is another. Here are some tips on how to feed hay without causing them digestive upsets:
Feed them frequently but in small amounts
The first step to feeding any horse (or animal, for that matter), is to feed them in small amounts. Horses cannot decide for themselves so we have to decide for them. Taking care of any farm animal or pet requires dedication and you can’t just leave them food for them to chew away because they might not discipline themselves.
To avoid overfeeding, give them portions at different times of the day, just like how humans eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner separately. This will help your horse to feel less bloated, especially if they need to work on something. Horses that are physically active in the field or a show or competition work best in a scheduled diet.
Consider easy access to the hay
A horse needs constant food so that its tummy won’t get into trouble. If you are worried about your horse’s overeating tendencies, why not try a slow-feeding hay mechanism? This will provide them with easy access to the hay without giving them too much in one go.
Equine gastric ulcer syndrome is one of the problems you will encounter if your horse doesn’t get fed for a long time. That’s why having a convenient way for them to access hay, especially in the winter months, is always crucial.
Horses with obesity problems need to be watched
A great way to do this is to use a horse grazing muzzle. Some people think that this is a cruel act but it isn’t – it only limits your horse from eating too much when they graze in the warm months.
Grazing muzzles are safe and okay for horses because they’re only worn when they need to be fed. This is especially only used in the spring and summer when the pastures are green. In the winter months, there’s most likely no need for that since they won’t chew a lot – unless you don’t have a slow feeder for your in-house hay.
Horses that become obese are at risk for various problems, such as bone and joint problems, arthritis, laminitis, heart and lung problems, and fatigue. Too much fat also limits their ability to cool themselves in the summer and the fat build-up will also affect their organ functions.
That’s why you always need to consider limiting your horse in case they feed too much. If you suspect that your horse could be obese, you can either consult a vet or an equine expert and remember to change their diet only gradually to avoid your horse being shocked.
Consider adding little amounts of roughage
Roughage is found in most hay and is okay for your horse to feed on. They consist of various parts of the plant, such as seeds, grains, nuts, and the like. However, it should only make about 2% of a horse’s body weight and no more than that – it is only meant as a supplement to their natural diet. When choosing hay for your horse, don’t include too much grain in general.
Learn to adjust between seasons
In the summer, pastures are green and your horse can freely graze. In the winter, however, the supply of hay is limited so you should slowly adjust your horse’s diet plan to avoid getting shocked at how little hay they will get for the time being. In the same way, during the grazing season, be sure not to make your horse overfeed themselves.
Always make food changes gradually
To avoid getting your horse’s stomach upset, we recommend that you make food changes gradually. Whether it is trying out a new diet, a new type of hay, or limiting the hay or food that they take to reduce their weight, a gradual change will be more comfortable for your horse to not ruin their appetite.
Use measuring tools for feeding your horse
A standard hay bale weighs around 60 pounds with about 12 flakes. Of course, some hay bales don’t exactly weigh that way, so you do have to measure manually to give the right amount of food for your horse. Without proper measuring tools, you can’t be too sure that what you give to your equine friend is just right for their weight and needs.
Train your horse to stick to the schedule
A good horse trainer will stick to a schedule, which will also train the horse inevitably. They will get accustomed to the feeding program and they’ll automatically want to be fed at a certain time of the day – sort of like a body clock. If you become consistent in your feeding schedule, your horse is less likely going to run into health issues.
Don’t feed them before or after physical activity
A horse should be fed 3 hours away from any planned physical activity so that its digestive organs won’t be affected. Just like with humans, horses don’t do well in physical activity if their stomach is very full.
To wrap it up, horses are best fed with 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day per 1,000 pounds of weight. That still depends on many factors but it should be a basic rule of thumb. Always remember to feed your horse right so that they will have fewer health problems, live longer, and become a long-life companion that will return the favor to you.