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  • May 06, 2022 2 min read

    Confused by the plethora of different horse feeds?  Not sure which one to buy for your horse or whether you can mix them up?  There is too much advice online, everyone swearing by their feeds; it’s so hard to find anything impartial that isn’t trying to flog you a brand.  This blog is horse feeding simplified.  


    There are only three words you need to know when feeding horses...fibre, fibre and fibre!  Horses have evolved to eat long fibre – grass and hay – on a more or less continuous basis.  Anything that departs from this peripatetic grazing behaviour starts to compromise their health.  

    Health issues

    Horses shut-in stables for long periods without access to hay or turnout develop stable vices such as weaving and cribbing and health issues like gastric ulcers and may be more prone to life-threatening conditions like colic which is far more prevalent in stable kept horses.  

    Good gut function

    Mobility is required for good gut motility, and the small stomach and endless hindgut of the horse are designed to process a vast quantity of long fibre, ideally on the move.  But it’s all very well talking about the gold standard, but it isn’t always possible or desirable for other reasons to turn out for hours – horse flies, adverse hot and cold weather, lush grass – are just some of the things that spring to mind.

    Best practice

    From the owner’s point of view, it is essential to try and mimic the natural lifestyle as much as possible.  Horses should always have access to long fibre, whether hay or grass.  This diet supplies an extraordinary energy level for work before additional feed supplementation is required.  Horses in light work can have feeds of fibre nuts or soaked fibre pellets to which can be added any supplementation or medications.  Horses can work excellent hard on this diet before needing more energy-giving and calorific hard feed.

    Your horse’s weight is the guide to how much food they need each day which can be split between fibre and grain or other feeds; use a weight tape to calculate this, or take your horse to the vet and use their weighbridge.  Some feed companies offer yard visits and will consider and condition score your horse for you. Still, they will only sell their proprieties brand, not necessarily ring general and impartial advice. If you are unsure about your horse’s weight, ask a knowledgeable friend or trainer.  If you are implementing changes, then take photographs every week to compare the difference.

    Feeding doesn’t have to be complicated

    Feeding horses are like feeding people in that it has become incredibly over-complicated.  Science has its place, but most feeding comes down to good old-fashioned horsemanship and a fundamental understanding of how the horse’s digestive system works.  You can’t go wrong if you start with fibre, feed mainly fibre and only add anything else in small amounts as necessary.

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