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What do horses eat?

‘What should I feed my horse?’ this is one of the most frequently asked questions to our nutritionists. The subject of horse feed is not an easy one, as sport horses have different feed requirements than mares in foal or leisure horses. This article explains exactly what horses eat and when.

What does a horse eat - the basis

Sufficient good quality roughage forms the basis of every horse’s diet. On a daily basis, horses and ponies require 1.5 - 2.5 kg roughage per 100 kg body weight. This means an adult horse of 600 kg needs 9 to 15 kg roughage a day. Roughage supplies fibre and this quantity is necessary for a proper functioning of your horse’s gastro-intestinal tract.

For horses that easily gain weight, you can choose for low-energy roughage with a low sugar content and a moderate protein content. Sport horses fare better on roughage with a higher energy and protein content. We recommend that each batch of roughage is analysed. Based on the contents of your roughage - or rather, on what it does not contain or does not sufficiently contain, you might then supplement your horse’s diet. 

How do you define how much and which feed your horse needs?

What feed a horse requires depends on the following factors:

  • Breed, type and temper of your horse.
  • Energy use during exercise: do you exercise your horse intensively and/or long, or is your horse exercised lightly?
  • Age: do you have a young horse that is still growing, is your horse in its prime, or is it a senior? Young horses and senior horses need more feed to keep their weight.
  • Do you keep your horse all day in a paddock with access to grass? Or is it kept wholly or partially in a stable and dependent on what you feed it? If your horse is out in a paddock all day, you need to provide less hay to meet the requirement of 2 kg hay per 100 kg body weight. After all, grass is roughage too.
  • Time of the year: is it cold or very warm, are the horses shedding their coats?
  • Is your mare in foal or lactating?

In short, there are many things to consider when thinking about your horse its feed. Therefore, ask advice from a specialist who will compose, together with you, a healthy diet for your horse. Pavo employs a nutritionist especially for answering these questions. Don’t hesitate to contact us via email voeradvies@pavo.net or call on +31 (0) 485 490700.

Do you feed a horse differently in the summer than in the winter

The time of year definitely affects what you feed your horse and how much you feed. When the winter season starts, and the horses spend more time in their stables, or when the nutritional value of the grass decreases, you need to adjust the diet. A winter diet will typically contain more roughage and a supplement of vitamins, minerals and trace elements than a summer diet. In the past, the winter meant a period of rest, but nowadays that is not necessarily the case. When spring returns, you gradually change again from the winter diet to a summer diet.


What is healthy feed for a horse and what is definitely not?

The question seems simple, but the answer is not straightforward at all.

  • Grass, hay and silage are healthy roughage for horses. However, everything with moderation and there are exceptions to the rule. Horses with laminitis, for example, should not be turned out on grass.
  • Treats are a point of attention too. One treat a day is ok, but a dozen is not. The same applies to bread. Provided the bread is well dried, a slice of bread is not healthy, but will not do any damage to a horse either. But don’t feed half a loaf a day.
  • Fruit is ok, but has a relatively high sugar content. Too much fruit will disturb the micro flora in the intestines. If you do want to give your horse fruit, give an apple, banana, peach without stone, a pear or a plum.
  • Vegetable waste is not good for your horse. Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, radish and carrots are vegetables that will not cause problems for horses. Especially carrots are a healthy supplement, they contain little sugar, a lot of moisture and beta-carotene too. Carrots are an excellent treat or reward for ground work.

Buying horse feed

There are special points of sale that sell horse feed. Here you can check out all points of sale that sell Pavo products.




Pavo Cerevit

The complete basic muesli for every horse and pony