Before knowing what horses eat, we must know that they are herbivores, their diet is based on plants, especially grazing. Their jaws are prepared to chew grass, flowers and fruits. Despite their large size, they have a very small stomach and a delicate digestive system, so they cannot eat a lot of food at once. Specifically, an adult horse needs 2-2.5% of its weight in feed and about 40 liters of water per day.
The horse’s diet will vary depending on whether it is free-ranging or domestic. Wild horses feed mainly on the grass they find in the meadows where they roam. In captivity, on the other hand, they tend to have a more varied diet; they are usually offered specific feed for them and foods such as alfalfa, corn, oats, zucchini, carrots and apples.
What foods do horses eat?
Horses’ digestive system needs a high amount of fiber, that is why they feed mainly on grass, forage, hay and straw. But cereals, fruits and vegetables can also be incorporated in their diet.
In nature, the horse spends more than half of the day eating (about 16 hours), so we must divide its ration into several small feedings per day, leaving two hours between one and another. The more feedings, the better. Otherwise, they may suffer from colic. After eating, they should rest for at least one hour to digest properly.
Grass is their natural diet, it is what horses eat when they are in the wild. It provides them with most of the nutrients they need to be healthy so, whenever possible, it is the best option.
Hay is usually the supplemental feed for grass in domestic horses. It is a collection of highly nutritious grasses that are cut and dried for easy storage and administration. The most common are timothy, brome and alfalfa. Hay is the most recommended option when a horse is unable to graze.
Always check the hay before giving it to your equine. First, make sure it is of good quality and, once purchased, check it for freshness, moisture and mold. It should also be free of dust.
They can be given a small amount of cereals such as corn, oats and barley.
Fruits and vegetables eaten by horses
You can offer these foods from time to time as a reward or treat. The best fruits for horses are apples, strawberries, pears, watermelon, bananas and oranges. As for vegetables, you can offer zucchini, pumpkin, celery, carrots, beets, turnips, etc….
These should not be part of their daily diet, but you can give them several days a week.
Salt and minerals
In addition to all these foods that horses eat, they also need a concentrate mixture as a supplement for complete nutrition. Salt has sodium and chloride, two components that horses lose through sweat during exercise. You can offer them salt in block or loose form. Vitamins should only be administered if indicated by the veterinarian, in case of deficiency.
Mixed or pelleted feeds that provide all the nutrients they need for a balanced diet. Make sure they are of good quality and provide an adequate level of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Now that you know what horses eat, you should also know which foods are not recommended in their diet. These are wheat and rice bran, for example. You can give them to them in small amounts, but it is better to avoid them because they can cause a mineral imbalance. On the other hand, it is also better to avoid grass, because if we do not know it, it could have some toxic plant. Alfalfa and cereals should not be abused either.
How do you feed your horse?