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Horse Nutrition Questions

20 Questions with answers

What are the classes of nutrients needed by horses?


  • water
  • protein
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • high-energy food (not really a nutrient, more a quality of the feed)

What are the basic food supplements I need for my horse?


  • Carrots and apples, especially apples
  • Cod liver oil, rich in vitamins, mix it with food
  • Molasses, mix it with dry food or medicines
  • Corn oil, a rich source of energy
  • Salt lick, one designed for horses, not cattle
  • Beet pulp, rich in energy and protein, soak before feeding

What are the two classes of hays fed to horses?


  • grasses such as orchard grass, timothy, fescue
  • legumes such as clover and alfalfa

Is it true you should feed horses hay before grain?

By feeding hay before grain you may get some stabilization of the microbial bugs in the large intestine which ferment the fibre in the horse's diet. However, some studies suggest that this may decrease the ability of the horse to properly digest the grain. You may want to feed hay about 15 minutes prior to feeding grain.

Do oats hold any nutritional value for horses?

Oats are not the best feed to give your horse on their own. They have unbalanced levels of calcium and phosphorus. However, if you are feeding a mineral supplement and some alfalfa hay, then you should be ok.

What type of salt and what general guidelines can you suggest for an adult horse that and gets moderate exercise is in excellent health?

Salt blocks are very important for your horse because most horse feeds are low in sodium and chloride, You can also buy a trace mineralized salt blocks that has other minerals too, but be sure that is one specially designed for horses!

What would cause a horse to lick the dirt?

The most likely reason is that he is not getting enough salt or trace minerals in his diet. Try offering him a trace mineral salt block.

Oil, such as corn oil, can help keep/add weight and improve the hair coat. Three tablespoons daily is good. Does it matter what kind of oil, such as Wesson or soybean oil?

Adding oil is safe and effective way to add energy to your horses' diet without increasing the grain portion of the diet, Any kind will do just fine.

What kind of hay does my horse need during a cold winter?

To help keep them warm in the winter, feed them as much forage such as hay that they will eat. When fiber is fermented in the large intestines of the horse, it gives off heat as a by-product. This can help keep them warm.

What are some foods horses should avoid?


  • Red Clover: can cause slobbering, not toxic but not very aesthetically pleasing
  • Sweet Clover: when moldy can cause blood clotting problems
  • Alfalfa: blister beetles can cause ulcers, liver damage etc.
  • Sudan Grass/Johnson Grass: can have cyanide in it, cause cystitis, ataxia, abortions
  • Tall Fescue: Endophyte can cause reproductive problems; don't feed to mares after their 9th month gestation
  • Ryegrass: may cause neurological problems or founder
  • Bran Rice/Wheat: high in phosphorus, so feed with care (make sure diet has enough calcium to accommodate for higher phosphorus)

What are some plants horses should avoid?


  • Deadly: Wild blue Flax, Elderberry, Milkweed, Foxglove, Oleander, Lily of the Valley, Water hemlock, Yew, Avocado.
  • Colic/Diarrhea causing: Horse chestnut, Pokeweed, Laurel, Azaleas, Mesquite etc.
  • Others: Locoweed, Horsetail, Bracken Fern, Yellow Star Thistle etc.

Are ther extra food things you should you feed pregnant mare?

The mare will need a more nutrient-dense diet. Beet pulp has more energy per pound than most hays, but less energy than grain. For example, if you are replacing grain, then you'd have to feed more of it to have the same amount of energy as a given weight of grain.

What should I be sure to feed my mare to keep her healthy and strong. We ride daily and do a lot of jumping.

An active horse has very high energy requirements. Make sure she has all the hay she can eat. To help her get enough energy, add up to two cups of oil to her diet a day. That way you can decrease the grain intake (and decrease risk of colic) and still give her lots of energy. Also, make sure you provide her with a water and a salt block.

How good are "complete feeds"?

Really best as a supplement. Hay is really the best for horse health - fiber for intestinal health, chew time for sanity and decreasing the chance of developing bad habits. If your hay isn't good quality (nutrient-wise, never feed moldy or really dusty hay), you can still feed it just to give him something to eat and then feed a complete feed to make sure he gets his nutrients.

Are there supplements of some kind to make our hay go farther?

For the average 1000-pound horse, don't go below 10 pounds of forage (hay or pasture grass) per day. If you need to go below that, try upping the fiber by purchasing some hay cubes or beet pulp. Also provide some straw, such as oat straw, just for munching on. There is little nutrition in it but it keeps the digestive tract healthy.

What are some people foods that I shouldn't feed my horse?

Well, there are lots of things that I wouldn't feed my horse: chocolate, anything with caffeine, meat. If you're not sure, don't feed it!

Can too much alfalfa give a horses diarrhea?

Too much alfalfa may give a horse some diarrhea, but may not be the only cause. Basic guidelines for a pleasure horse: feed him lots of good quality hay (maybe a mix of alfalfa, grass hay), and make sure he always has water and salt.

What is recommended for growing manes and tails quickly.

Flax seeds or oil have been used often to improve coat quality. Just make sure if you use whole seeds, you add some water and boil them (releases the oils from the seeds). Some other vegetable oils (wheat germ, rice bran) can be useful too. Whether on not any of these will make the hair grow faster is unlikely - but it will be stronger and shinier when it does grow.

Will black walnuts make a horse sick?

Black walnuts, black walnut trees and their shavings can cause depression, anorexia, colic and laminitis in horses.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Snacks and Treats for Your Horse.
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