Horses are trickle feeding herbivores that have evolved to consume a diet rich in structural carbohydrates (fibre), but low in soluble polysaccharides (starch).
Fibre sources such as hay, haylage and grass are vital for a healthy digestive system and should always form the majority of the diet.
Fibre also provides the horse with excellent levels of slow release energy and a good source of calories and heat as it is fermented in the body.
Starch is a carbohydrate found in cereal grains such as barley, maize and oats and provides a good source of fast release energy.
While starch is not ‘bad’ as such for the horse in small quantities, it can cause problems if the horse eats too much in one meal.
It is well documented that horses are ineffective at utilising starch if fed in excess and recent studies have concluded that horses should be fed a low starch diet, as higher amounts can lead to the development of gastric ulcers, insulin
resistance, laminitis and muscle myopathies (such as tying up).
It is essential that horses are fed according to their individual needs.
Horses at maintenance should be fed high fibre, low calorie feeds to avoid excess energy being consumed.
However, horses that are in work and require more energy, do not necessarily need to be fed concentrated meals, high in starch, to get the extra calories needed.
Highly digestible fibre, combined with oil, can provide a good level of calories in a form that is more suited to the digestive physiology of the horse
HORSE FORAGE TO CONCENTRATE FEEDING GUIDELINES
Horse/Pony Details Feed Requirements
Approx Height (hh) Approx Weight (kg) Hard Feed per day (kg) Min forage per day (kg)
10-11.3 150-200 0.5-1.0 2.5-3.0
12-12.3 200-250 1.0-1.5 3.0-3.5
13-13.3 300-350 1.5-2.0 4.5-5.5
14-14.3 400-450 2.0-2.5 6.0-6.5
15-15.3 500-550 2.5-3.0 7.5-8.0
16-16.3 550-600 3.0-4.0 8.0-9.0
17+ 600+ 3.5-5.0 9.0+