How Much Food Does A Horse Eat A Day?

There are many rules you may have heard about feeding a horse such as using your palm with outstretched fingers. There is however, a lot to learn about feeding horses. Horses need attentive care and feeding is one of the main ways to ensure your equine companion thrives. We all want to feed the horses enough and become responsible horse owners. For this reason, I sought all that entails feeding of horses including calculation of the correct amount to feed them.

horses eating

So how much food does a horse eat a day? The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture recommends 15-20 pounds of hay each day. This is equivalent to at least 1.5% to 3% of its total body weight (about 1,000 pounds). This estimate is based on medical nutritional considerations to enhance the best rate of energy without over-feeding. 

Horses Eat A Ton

They may therefore consume less or more depending on their metabolism and workload, which is also based on their age and time of the year. Smaller breeds such as ponies require less food compared to the large draft breeds. The largest horses may consume up to 30 pounds by the time they day is over. Different nutritionists may offer slightly varying information because other contributing factors are involved in feeding. Various habits influence the general outcome of the size of the food consumed on a daily basis. Small amounts of hay given frequently, for example, mimics the natural grazing instincts, and can regulate the total amount consumed.

This is the healthiest way to control their mind about feeding. Avoiding giving a full day’s worth in one meal will help you achieve this sanity. Most importantly, you will build a strong digestive system and happy horse. Ensure that you always hay available at all times, if possible. Restricting the amount of hay will help you avoid obesity and laziness. Since some horses only need hay, you do not need to invest in concentrates like oats or sweet feed (rich hay with legumes such as clover and alfalfa).

The rules of feeding horses surpass the basic things you may be knowing about not walking behind a horse, and using your flat palm to offer treats among other common rules. There are more to learn and you need to grasp them as a foundation of building your overall horse care. Remembering the rules will help your horse live longer and you can enjoy more of their company in old age. Read more to find out how to take best care of your horse through feeding them right.

Food Calculation

Determination of your horse needs require consideration of their lifestyle, and body weight. You need to calculate the bags of grain and bales of hay based on these major issues. The weight of the horse is dependent on the lifestyle you chose for them. First, note that horses are built to feed on grass and can survive purely on fresh grass or dried hay. Their digestive tract can handle the diet all their lives so there should be no worry about what to feed them. The hay diet should bring the following:

  • Adequate essential fatty acids: 4 to 6 oz of flaxseed or ground stabilized flax
  • Mineral supplement to complement/balance the hay
  • Vitamin E supplement: 1500 to 2000 IU/day
  • White salt or iodized salt

Some horse experts discourage grain in a horses diet. Since it is a concentration of calories, it should only be given to horses with a problem to hold on normal weight with hay alone. If the horse is inactive, you should refrain from feeding it on grain or balance the weight by reducing the amount of hay.

Consider the following conversions:

  • 1 pound of complete or senior feed is equivalent to 1.25 pounds of hay.
  • 1 pound of beet pulp is 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of hay
  • 1 pound of commercial grain mix is equivalent to 2.5 to 3 pounds of hay
  • 1 pound of plain oats = 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of hay
  • 1 pound of rice bran = 1.75 pounds of hay


Horses on light work duty need up to 25% more calories than the inactive ponies. All you need to do is increase the hay. Those on moderate duty will need 50% more for a day’s job, which requires more than hay to meet. Heavy workloads need a concentrated calorie diet as stipulated above.

Related Questions

How much grain must I include in the diet?

Grains come with calories and increase the horses weight. If your horse works a lot, you need more calories. If however, they are inactive; avoid grain and concentrate on hay to avoid obesity.

Can a horse get all nutrients from eating grass?

Yes, if your horse feeds on fresh grass, it is all they need to thrive. However, you can boost minerals and vitamins by using grains especially for horses set aside for work.

Which plants are toxic to horses?

There are many poisonous plants, which include; Bracken Fern, Hemlock, Johnsongrass/Sudan grass, Locoweed, Oleander, Red maple trees, Water hemlock, Yellow star thistle, Yew, Black walnut, and Small flower buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus) and tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris)


Horse feed is probably the most important item for a horse. It will protect them and keep them warm in the winter months if they have access to more food. In the summer months while riding you have to be careful of your feeding schedule as that can affect their health greatly with things such as colicing.

Know your horse research their breed. A lot of people have different horses like a quarter horse and mini horse like us. So you have to be careful and keep them separated if they are eating different foods. There are easier ways just like bringing them into their stalls just for horse graining time or completely keeping them separated in different pastures. Whatever works best for you.

Taking keen interest in the feeding habits of your horse will save you the trouble of dealing with its weight issues, medical complications, and veterinary expenses. Once you have it figured out and get a routine down it makes things much easier. Most importantly, your horse will live a long happy life.



Hello and welcome to our horse news site. Hope you find any information helpful. We are a fun loving family that has always loved our horses we have now welcomed a new mini horse to your family for our daughter he has become quite the character.

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