What Do Horses Eat? Explore Horse Diets

Horses are herbivores and require a highly specific diet. They must consume a lot of fiber to keep their unusually long and sensitive digestive tract running properly, and they must feed frequently throughout the day. Horses consume grass and hay or haylage, but salt, concentrates, and fruits or vegetables can also supplement their meals, depending on the work schedule and available nutrition.

Here's our Horse Feeding Guide, which includes a simple list of everything an adult horse needs to consume to stay healthy. If your horse's feeding habits alter, or you see him losing or gaining weight, consult your equine veterinarian as soon as possible.

It's also crucial to note that abrupt changes in your horse's diet might cause disease, particularly colic; if you do adjust your horse's diet, do so gradually over two to four weeks. You can plan the nutritional modification with the assistance of an equestrian nutritionist.

What do horses eat?

Horses naturally want to graze all day and should eat frequently and in little amounts. Here are our top horse feed recommendations:

  • Grass - horses adore it. It's their natural food, and it's wonderful for their digestive system (but if your horse eats too much green grass in the spring, he may develop laminitis). Ensure that any plants that could be detrimental to horses, such as ragwort, which is abundant in the UK, are completely removed from your pasture.
  • Hay or haylage - keeps your horse fed and its digestive system running, especially during the cooler months of autumn to early spring when pasture is scarce.
  • Fruit and vegetables give moisture to the feed. A carrot chopped lengthwise works well. However, there are several fruits and vegetables you should avoid - see the section below on the types of foods horses should not eat.
  • Concentrates - If your horse is old, young, nursing, pregnant, or competing, your veterinarian may advise you to feed concentrates, which are cereals such as oats, barley, and maize. These provide energy to your horse. Be warned that combining them in the wrong amounts or combinations can result in mineral imbalances.
  • Salt - In a pasture, provide your horse with a salt lick block or loose salt in a separate container. During the summer, many horse owners discover that their horses enjoy eating salt.


Freshwater - In addition to horse food, your horse requires fresh clean water as often as possible, but at least twice a day. If your horse does not have access to it, avoid giving it water immediately after a feed otherwise it may develop a clog caused by undigested food moving too quickly through the digestive tract. Make sure your horse's water does not freeze in the winter.

How much should horses eat?

An adult horse should consume 1.5-3 percent of its body weight in dry matter (what remains after all of the water in a feed has evaporated). This is determined by the horse's activity level and the quality of the feed.

In terms of how much hay to feed a horse, pasture grass or hay/haylage should make up at least half of their diet. When a horse is exercised or ridden, it requires more food during the day or becomes underweight. Do not work a horse right after eating a substantial meal. This is quite painful for the horse and may interfere with its digestion.

Horse Feeding Instructions

Horses should be fed frequently throughout the day. A horse in a barn requires two to three feeding each day. You should not leave your horse without nourishment for more than eight hours. Horses thrive on routine, so feed them at the same time every day. Make sure the troughs are clean as well, or the horses may refuse to eat or drink.

What do horses enjoy eating?

Horses enjoy treats, as well as grass and hay. But be careful not to overdo it. See our list of foods to avoid.

What do wild horses consume?

Wild horses graze on vast swaths of ground, consuming grass, grass seed heads, and other edible shrubs and plants. They prefer to reside near bodies of fresh water. Wild horses can graze for 15-17 hours each day, according to estimates.

Horses should not eat the following feeds:

What horses eat can have a significant impact on their health. So, in addition to ensuring that your horse consumes tiny amounts of food, you must also avoid feeding your horse the following:

  • Lots of fruit snacks/treats - they can induce colic, obesity, and other major health issues, such as the painful foot disease laminitis. Make sure your horse doesn't have more than one or two wedges of fruit, such as an apple, or one or two carrots per day. Make sure your horse isn't grazing near an orchard or fruit tree throughout the season, and post signs on fences urging people not to feed or treat your horse.
  • Stone fruits - if not pitted, these can choke your horse.
  • Although your horse will enjoy eating chocolate or other sugary meals, these high-sugar diets are unnecessary and may contribute to health problems or obesity.
  • Bread and cakes may induce a clog in the digestive tract of a horse.
  • Meat - this can be damaging to your horse in the long run, and they don't need it nutritionally.
  • Turnips, cabbages, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other cabbage family vegetables will make your horse very uncomfortable and gassy.
  • Potatoes and tomatoes are Nightshade family members that should not be fed to horses.
  • Garden trash poses numerous hazards, including plants, weeds, and chemicals from potentially deadly garden sprays. Although giving horses newly cut grass may seem like a good idea, you never know what other garden debris might be in there, and your horse may devour the grass much faster than if grazing organically. Colic could be the end effect.
  • Mouldy or dusty hay might harm your horse's lungs.
  • Brans are bad for horses and should be avoided unless they are required for a specific diet.

Also, make sure your horse isn't overweight!

Check your horse's body condition score regularly. Overweight horses, like underweight horses, are at risk of a variety of health problems, so be sure you're not overfeeding or underexercising them. Take extra care with the number of treats you give your horse!

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