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What Do Horses Eat?

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Horses are some of the most-loved animals on earth. These mesmerizing animals are in-part to thank for society as we know it today because they were once tremendously helpful modes of transport.  Humans started domesticating horses around 4000 BC.  

Today, there are a few wild horse species left such as the endangered Przewalski’s horse.  Przewalski’s horses can, however, also be successfully tamed and kept but they are usually not kept as pets because they are so scarce. 

Most horses found in the wild today are domesticated horse breeds that became feral horses but these are not considered as part of the true wild horse breeds that remain living today.  

The greater part of horses is all domesticated horse breeds that belong to the taxonomic family Equidae.


What Do Horses Eat?

Horses are herbivores. They will only consume plant matter and the type of food you offer them can have a huge impact on their overall health.  They can consume a rather large variety of plants and they do occasionally need to consume minerals in addition to their foods.  Here is a quick look at some of the foods horses love to eat;


Grass and tender plants

The natural food for a horse is pasture grass and tender plants. Grazing on pasture can give a horse most of the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.  It is however unhealthy to offer too much green grass and tender plants to horses that don’t do a lot of exercises.  Their natural grazing areas should offer ample space for them to walk and run so they can stay healthy.

Horses love to eat a variety of grass types such as reed canary grass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, meadow fescue, smooth bromegrass, and many others.  


Hay or haylage

If horses don’t have the luxury of large grazing fields, they can also be kept on hay.  Hay is also a good feed to offer in harsh conditions such as wintertime or during droughts.  Horses can be offered a variety of hay types such as Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, timothy, and others.  



Horses love to eat grains but they shouldn’t be offered too much grain.  Traditional oats are the best grain to offer horses but they can also eat other grains like corn or wheat.  If horses eat too much grain, they can get medical conditions such as colic.


Concentrate mixes

Concentrated mixes are manufactured feeds that can be offered to horses.  These feeds can be in powder or pellet form.  Commercial mixes can have several ingredients such as grain, flaxseed, beet pulp, molasses, bran, and others.  Most quality brands will offer you the nutritional specifications of these foods so you will know how much to offer horses.  These mixes are ideal for nursing horses back to health or to offer nursing mares, working horses, or old horses.  


Fruits and Vegetables

Some fruits and vegetables are very tasty treats to offer horses as a reward.  Some horses may prefer certain fruits and veggies over others. 

These animals can consume a variety of fresh fruits such as apples, raisins, grapes, bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe, and melons.  They also enjoy a variety of vegetables such as carrots, celery, pumpkin, snow peas, and some leafy greens.

Horses do love some fruits and veggies but they shouldn’t be offered too much of these treats.  1 – 2 carrots, apples, or other foods are enough treats for a day.  



Farmers often choose to supplement their horses with minerals such as salt, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and others.  Salt and minerals are usually introduced as a concentrate mix that is offered separately.  Many horse farmers will lay a salt block loose in a stall so horses can lick salt as often as they like.  Other farmers prefer to add salt and other minerals to grain before offering it to horses.


These minerals are especially important for horses that are kept on hay during wintertime or in drought-stricken areas.


It is important not to offer too many minerals to horses or to avoid mixing too many minerals into their other foods such as grains.  Excessive minerals can result in imbalances which can cause health issues such as rashes, skin conditions, hair thinning, and others.  



Horses need constant access to fresh water.  Horses that are kept on hay will drink much more compared to horses that can consume fresh pasture grass.  They rely on fresh water to survive and, although it is not essential, horses love to swim on occasion.  


Diet Variations

Horses can have quite a few diet variations, especially when it comes to human foods.  They may eat all sorts of human treats such as rusks, cookies, bread, porridge, cereal, and horses may even sneak a bite of your hamburger or hot dog.  

An occasional bite of human food won’t do horses much harm but it is best not to offer them too much of these foods.  Human foods contain lots of unhealthy ingredients such as vegetable fats, salt, spices, and sugar that are not healthy for horses.

Some horse owners love to spoil their horses with sweet treats like sugar cubes. Sugar cubes are tasty snacks to help replenish horses after a long ride but these treats should also be offered moderately or your horse can start to suffer.


How To Feed Horses?

Horses are fairly easy to feed.  If you are keeping your horse on pasture grass, you can simply allow it to walk for 8+ hours so it can get enough time for grazing.  Afterward, horses can be treated to additional snacks such as fruits, veggies, or grains to supplement them.

Horses that are kept on hay should be offered sufficient fresh feed every day.  It is also important to offer them additional supplements such as grains, concentrate mixes, fruits, and veggies because hay has less nutritional value compared to pasture grass.


How Much Do Horses Eat In A Day?

Horses do have quite a healthy appetite.  An average adult horse that weighs 2000lbs needs about 1.5 – 3% dry hay feed per day depending on its daily activity.  That means it needs 15 – 20 pounds of hay per day.  They do however consume less fresh pasture compared to hay because fresh pasture is much more nutritional.  

Horses that are ridden regularly need more food compared to those who don’t work hard because some horses can become obese if they are offered too many foods or treats.  Exercise is vital for maintaining a healthy body and good cardiovascular health in horses.  

You can also supplement your horse by feeding it grain.  Only offer 4 – 5 pounds of grain per feeding and don’t offer your horse more than 11 pounds of grain per day.  Too much grain can result in colic or bloating in your horse or can cause obesity. 

Additional snacks such as fruits and veggies should be offered moderately.  1 – 2 pieces of fruit or veggies per day is enough.  Too many snacks can cause your horse to become obese.  

A horse also needs to drink 5 – 10 gallons of water per day.  They can survive up to 25 days without food as long as they have a lot of drinking water but will only survive 3 days without water.  In hot summers, horses will drink much more water compared to wintertime.  Horses will also drink more water if they are kept on dry food compared to horses who can consume pasture grass.


What do Baby Horses Eat?

Baby horses are called foals.  Foals rely on colostrum within the first 24 – 36 hours of its life to stay healthy.  In the first three days of its life, it will consume about 15 liters of milk per day.  During the first few days, foals will nurse frequently, sometimes as often as every 10 minutes.

In the first three weeks of its life, it will get all its nutritional needs from its mother’s milk. Orphaned foals can also be kept on a proper milk substitute designed for horses. 

After three weeks, foals will start to nibble at the grass and other foods.  Young horses will continue to increase their food consumption until they are ready to be weaned at 2 – 3 months old.


What Do Wild Horses Eat?

Wild horses do not have access to grains, vegetables, fruits, and minerals.  They rely on foods they find in their natural environment to survive.  Wild horses graze on grasses and edible shrubs.  They need to graze 15 – 17 hours per day to stay nourished and they do tend to live close to water because they need to drink 5 – 10 gallons of water per day to stay hydrated.  


What Do Horses Like To Eat The Most?

Natural pasture grass is a horse’s natural food.  But they sure do love occasional snacks.  Most horses prefer apples and carrots over any other treats.  They also enjoy eating sugar cubes and may love other fruits and veggies such as bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe, and many others.  Oats can be considered as a horse’s favorite grain food. 



What Foods Are Toxic To Horses?

Some foods and plants are not healthy for horses to consume.  Brans such as wheat and rice bran can be offered in limited quantities but these foods are not healthy to consume regularly because they can cause mineral imbalances in your horse.

Tomatoes can also cause constipation in horses.  It is ok for a horse to eat one tomato, but too much can be harmful to them

Horses should also be kept away from garlic and onions since these foods can cause gassing or colic.  

Dairy products and chocolate are also quite unhealthy for horses since their digestive systems are not designed to handle dairy products.

Bread products contain lots of bran, wheat, and other ingredients that aren’t very healthy for your horse either.  It is ok for your horse to nibble on a piece of bread or toast now and then but this isn’t a food you should be offering every week.

Some horses may choose to nibble at meat products such as hot dogs.  Their digestive systems are not designed to tolerate meats or eggs.  These foods can cause digestive issues.


What Food Do Horses Eat In Minecraft?

Horses are useful and loved animals in the game Minecraft.  In this popular game, horses can be offered foods like sugar, wheat, apple, golden carrots, golden apples, enchanted golden apples, and hay bales.  

Offering certain foods can help your baby horse grow up faster.  Golden apples or enchanted golden apples, for example, can speed up your horse’s growth by 4 minutes.  Offering hay bales can speed its growth by 3 minutes and wheat can speed up its growth by 20 seconds.  

Offering certain foods can also restore the health of your horse by certain points.  Hay bales, for example, can restore your horse’s health by 20 points where sugar can restore its health with 1 point.


Final Thoughts

Horses are marvelous creatures but they do require lots of love and care.  These animals are not cheap to keep but they sure are fun to ride. 

Sadly, many people that buy these animals have no idea of the cost implications required to keep these animals healthy and fed.  This often results in animals that are neglected and abused.

In addition to a healthy diet, your horse also needs lots of exercises.  Without exercise, a horse can become obese which can have an impact on its joints and hooves.  

If you want to keep a horse, it is vital to first learn more about the right foods to offer your horse and the number of foods you should offer it.  You should also find out exactly what the food and vet costs are for keeping horses healthy before you decide to take on this huge step in your life.

With the proper care and the right foods, your horse will be healthy and strong.  When your horse is properly kept, it will be healthy enough to take you on frequent rides and problematic behaviors such as biting can be avoided.

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