Horse Care Guide
Equine Nutrition Basics – Feeding Your Horse a Healthy Diet

Horse ownership comes with a lot of work and knowledge is certainly one of those things that can take a long time to amass. An experienced horse owner will be able to tell you what and why their horses are fed, but only careful consideration and your veterinarian will be able to help you decide what your own horse’s nutritional needs are.

A balance and healthy equine diet is break down into six essential components:


Water should be your very first concern when thinking about your horse’s nutrition. Water regulates every system in a horse’s body and without water or if the water has dangerous ingredients in it, a horse can become dehydrated and experience serious and debilitating conditions. A horse will need to take enough water to match its activities level. A working horse and a horse kept for leisure will have different water intake requirement. Horses sweat much like humans do and that water must be replaced.


This nutrient is found in every food substance that grows on earth from cattle to dandelions. Even though humans generally associate protein with meat or dairy, a horse will get its protein from vegetable sources. Alfalfa, especially the second and third cut, provides excellent protein.

Protein is necessary for muscle growth among other functions and it is especially important that a young horse be given enough protein so its growth can continue unhindered. A great sign that a horse might not be getting enough protein is the development of a rough coat of hair.


This nutrient is the basic energy unit that you will find in most forms of horse feed. Carbohydrates are easily digestible and provide ready and quick energy. A horse left to graze all day will consume all its necessary carbohydrates, but since most horses do not have this luxury, they must be fed a grain such as corn, oats, or barley.

It is important to note that the amount of carbohydrates that a horse consumes should be regulated. A horse could develop colic if there is a sudden increase in carbohydrates such as sugar in their feed.


While most fats are not present in large quantities in a horse’s natural diet, they do have nutritional value. A measure of fat can be added to a horse’s feed if the feed is not dense enough with energy. Fat should be given only in limited quantities however to prevent disease and obesity. A horse’s body has simply not developed to handle a large amount of fat, so a horse owner must be careful when adding it to avoid colic or gastrointestinal distress in their animal.


Because we feed horses foods other than their natural foraged diet, their feed will lack certain essential vitamins. Most horse owners love their horses so much and would not bear to see their quality if life suffer as a result of insufficient vitamins and minerals intake.

The only way to know if your horse is receiving the right vitamins is to examine the vitamin content of the various foods they may consume. Diets high in grains are likely not vitamin heavy and horses on these diets, as well as horses under stress may need extra vitamin supplementation. Your veterinarian can help you decide exactly what kind of vitamins and supplements to give your horse.


Minerals are necessary for the correct growth and regeneration of many parts of the body. These minerals are often present in forage, but again may be lacking in a high-grain diet. A horse lacking in minerals may not show many overt signs, but its health may slowly deteriorate.

Do you know that a horse is able to drink 10 gallons of water every day and utilize more energy lying down? To find out more about equine, and other topics such as horse health and horse care information, visit our site now.

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