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Chapter 13 Feeds and feeding horses.

The greatest expense of owning a horse is the feed. This can be lessened by keeping a healthy horse, feeding a balanced ration according to need, and purchasing feeds that meet the needs of the animal.


After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

* Identify and describe sources of hay

* List and describe sources of concentrates

* Describe how to feed roughages and concentrates

* Name and describe sources of proteins

* Explain how horses are fed according to their activity level

* Make feeding recommendations or management suggestions

* Describe some typical rations for horses at different stages and activity levels

* Calculate the nutrient level of a mixed feed using a feed composition table

* Discuss how to feed minerals

* Identify sources of minerals






dry matter

feeding creep




Monday morning disease



rotational grazing



stocking rate


trace-mineralized salt


In balancing rations, the goals of a horse owner are to:

* Furnish horses with a daily supply of nutrients in the correct amounts

* Supply palatable, easily obtained feedstuffs

* Provide feedstuffs economical for the conditions

By nature, horses consume forage. Under natural conditions, they spend several hours a day grazing. Basing rations on adequate amounts of good-quality roughage minimizes digestive disturbances such as colic. Supplementing hay or pasture with the correct amount of the right concentrates will meet all requirements for energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins.

Since individual horses vary considerably in their nutrient requirements, feeding horses is both an art and a science. But tables such as Tables 12-6, 12-7, and 12-8 in Chapter 12 provide a useful basis for formulating rations. Horse owners need to be able to read and understand these tables.

All horses require nutrients to maintain body weight and to support digestive and metabolic functions. In some cases they need additional nutrients for growth, work, reproduction, or lactation.

Tables of nutrient requirements for horses are expressed in two ways:

1. Daily nutrient requirements

2. Nutrient concentration in the feed (This may be expressed on an as-fed basis or on a dry-matter basis.)

Most horses receive their daily ration in two parts: roughage (hay, silage, and/or pasture) and concentrates. The concentrate portion contains grain and may include a protein supplement, minerals, and vitamins. It may also include bran, cane molasses, and/or dehydrated alfalfa.

The horse owner must decide:

* How much and what kind of roughage to feed

* The correct concentrate mixture and the amount of it needed to supply the nutrients not present in adequate amounts in the roughage


Feeds for horses are discussed in four groups:

1. Roughages

2. Concentrates

3. Protein supplements

4. Minerals

Most grains and hays contain 88 to 90 percent dry matter. If a horse receives insufficient dry matter, it may become bored and chew on its stall or eat its bedding. If the feed has too much bulk (excessive amounts of fiber or water), the horse might not be able to eat enough to satisfy all its nutritional requirements for carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins.

Table 13-1 provides the composition of some common feeds for horses. Dry matter, digestible energy (DE), crude protein (CP), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), and vitamin A content are listed for hays, concentrates and protein supplements, and mineral supplements.


Adequate amounts of roughage in the ration decrease the risk of colic and laminitis. Roughage also helps maintain the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, because roughages--especially legume hays--are high in calcium and because grain is low in calcium. Rations should always contain more calcium than phosphorus. Calcium-to-phosphorus ratios between 1.1:1 and 2:1 are within an acceptable range. Even higher calcium levels can be tolerated. However, when phosphorus levels are higher than calcium levels, severe skeletal abnormalities may result.

Adequate hay in the ration of horses kept in stalls also is beneficial because they eat it over a longer time span than they do grain. This helps prevent vices such as wood chewing.

A good rule of thumb is to feed at least 1 pound of hay per day for every 100 pounds body weight of the horse. A 1,000-pound horse would be fed about 10 pounds of hay per day. Mature, idle horses in good condition, fed excellent hay in increased quantities (about 2 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight) may do well without grain added to their ration. Growing or working horses, mares during late pregnancy, and mares during lactation need grain and other concentrates in addition to the roughage.


The most important consideration in selecting a dry roughage is that it be free of dust and mold. Otherwise, heaves and colic may result. Early-cut hays, properly cured, are preferred. They can be identified by color, head development on grass hays, leaf-to-stem ratio, and size of stems in legumes. Bales should be broken to check for dust and moldy odor.

Idle adult horses that are confined will eat about 15 to 20 pounds of good-quality mixed hay daily when no grain is fed. Feeding just what the horse will eat takes some experience and observation. Table 13-2 provides guidelines for feeding hay to a mare in a dry lot or stall.

Legume Hays. Legume hays are higher in protein and minerals and are more palatable than grass hays. They make excellent horse feed and should be included in the rations of young growing animals, breeding animals, and many adult working horses.

Alfalfa. When properly cured, alfalfa is nutritionally the best of the legumes. Its high protein, calcium, and vitamin content make it especially useful in balancing rations for broodmares and young, growing horses. Some halter-show people make extensive use of top-quality alfalfa in show rations, especially with horses that are finicky about eating.

Some alfalfa hay may contain blister beetles, so hay should be carefully examined. If the beetles are eaten by a horse, severe illness or even death can result.

Clovers. Many varieties of clover are used alone or in combination with grass hays for horses. Red clover is similar to alfalfa and can be substituted for it, usually with slightly less-beneficial results. It is lower in protein and usually has a higher ratio of stems to leaves than alfalfa. Properly cured Alsike clover is a good hay for horses.

Lespedeza. When cut early, lespedeza makes an excellent hay. It is higher in protein than red clover. The calcium content is about half that of alfalfa. When lespedeza is cut late, many leaves are lost from shattering, and the stems become wiry and low in digestibility.

Grass Hays. Grass hays yield less per acre and are lower in protein, calcium, and vitamins, but they are less likely to be moldy and dusty than legume hays. They are usually cut too late to yield quality hay and often are priced higher than their feeding value justifies.

Grass hays often are grown and harvested in mixtures with legumes to produce an excellent combination suitable for almost any kind of horse feeding program.

Timothy. No other hay has had the lasting popularity of timothy. Its wide range of climatic adaptability, ease of curing, bright color, and freedom from dust and mold make it the horse owner's favorite. Since it is low in protein, it is a better feed for mature work horses than for stallions, mares, or young growing stock. If it is fed as the only roughage, it should be supplemented with protein or fed with a high-protein grain such as oats instead of corn. Special effort need not be made to obtain timothy; it can be satisfactorily substituted for in all horse rations. Mature, late-cut timothy is a poor feed for any class of livestock.

Prairie grass. Some horse owners substitute prairie hay satisfactorily for timothy. However, it is lower in protein, less bright in color, and usually less palatable than timothy.

Bromegrass. Bromegrass makes good horse hay. It is palatable when harvested in the bloom stage.

Orchard grass. Orchard grass is much like bromegrass but not quite as satisfactory.

Cereal grasses. Cereals make good hays when cut early. They should be cut in the soft to stiff dough stage. They are seldom cut early enough. Oats, barley, wheat, and rye hays are preferred, in that order. Extensive use is made of these in the Pacific Coast region.

Fescue. Fescue hay infected with endophyte fungus causes reproductive problems in mares if fed during late pregnancy. It is also low in energy, and horses don't like it very much. If harvested before it gets too mature, however, it usually works for mature geldings or open mares providing they have adequate supplementation.


Various types of silage can be used to replace half of the hay ration. It must be of good quality, free of decay or mold, and chopped fine. Good corn silage is preferred, but grain sorghum and grass silage can be used. It should be worked slowly into the rations of mature idle horses, growing horses, broodmares, and stallions. It is too bulky for hardworking animals and foals. Legume haylage can replace silage with equal or superior results. The cost for haylage for most horse owners is too high unless they combine it with a cattle-feeding program.


Grass is the natural feed for horses (Figure 13-1). No one feedstuff is as complete in nutrients as green pasture grown on fertile soil, and few feeds are fed in a more healthful environment. Grass reduces costs, provides succulence in the ration, and furnishes minerals and vitamins that are sometimes lacking in other feeds. However, hardworking horses need supplemental energy feeds because of the high water content of grass. Dry grass is usually low in protein and vitamins, and heavy stocking rates pose a parasite problem.

Pasturing can reduce stable vices caused by boredom or mineral deficiencies. Pasture rotation reduces the problem of parasites. Rotational grazing will also reduce patch grazing; placing minerals away from the water source encourages more evenly distributed grazing (Figure 13-2). A horse requires 2 to 5 acres of pasture for maintenance. Table 13-3 can be used to determine the stocking rate for horses on pastures, that is, the number of horses per unit of land area.


Animal units in Table 13-3 describe a pasture based on a horse's needs. For example, a 10-acre pasture may have a carrying capacity of 3 animal units. This means it can provide feed for three 1,100-pound horses in a maintenance condition, but it can provide feed for less than two lactating mares (3/1.8). Lactating mares represent 1.8 animal units because of their increased nutritional needs.

Factors such as forage species, season, environmental moisture, fertilization, and length of time that horses have access to the pasture affect proper stocking rates. Denser stocking rates reduce the average daily gain. Yearlings on properly stocked, high-quality, well-managed Bermuda grass can be expected to gain 1 to 1.2 pounds of body weight per day, which is equal to moderate growth rate recommendations for yearlings. Expected gains on small grains are less for yearlings (0.8 to 1 pound per day), possibly due to the intake of large amounts of water.


Stocking rate recommendations based on unit amounts of available forage per unit amount of animal can be difficult to understand. Usually, requests are made for stocking rates based on the number of horses per land area. However, differences in horse weight and use make it difficult to give recommendations for specific situations. Under controlled circumstances, stocking rates as intense as one mature, nonproducing horse to 1 to 1.5 acres of thick, productive Bermuda grass at 4 to 6 inches of growth can be used. The same stocking rates on small grains would require 6 to 7 inches of plant growth. Pastures that have less-dense or shorter forage or those that are not as intensively managed will require more acreage per horse. If horses are kept in unimproved, native grass pastures, they commonly need 5 to 10 acres per horse.

Recommendations for managing grazing of horses include the following:

1. Forage must be of high quality for optimal nutrient utilization.

2. Do not overestimate the amount of forage available when determining stocking rate. Trees, sacrifice areas (trampled areas), overgrazed areas, and brush must be considered.

3. Available forage will change due to season of the year and amounts of rainfall received.

4. Allow forage to grow to an acceptable height before providing access to grazing (Bermuda grass, 3 to 6 inches; cool season annuals, 6 to 8 inches).

5. Rotate pastures by removing horses periodically.

6. Decrease sacrifice areas (all forage killed) by frequently relocating feed troughs in pastures of adequate size.

7. Horses accustomed to a hay-grain diet should be gradually introduced to an allforage diet. If a horse's digestive tract is not given a chance to adapt to this dietary change, colic or founder may result.

8. Use proper pasture management and grazing management practices to economically produce and maintain horses.

Proper grazing and forage management practices allow pastures to be used to their full potential for horses.


Concentrates are high-energy feeds. Grains are concentrates used with hay to regulate energy intake and ensure that nutrients are sufficient to meet the work, growth, or reproductive performance required of the animal. Medium-sized, hardworking horses may need as much as 12 pounds or more of grain and an equal amount of hay daily to maintain body weight, whereas idle adult horses may get fat on grass alone (Figure 13-3).


Horses like grain. Some even bolt it to the point of choking. Most grains are improved by grinding or rolling, but none should be ground fine. Frequent feedings in small amounts are preferred, with at least a half-hour's rest for tired horses before grain is fed. Continued heavy grain feeding during a day off can cause a serious disease called azoturia (Monday morning disease). In general, grain rations should be cut in half and hay increased on days that working horses are idled. Substituting one or more grains for others needs to be a gradual process. Grains for horses include oats, corn, grain sorghum, barley, wheat, wheat bran, and cane molasses. Table 13-4 provides some guidelines for feeding grain with hay or pasture.

Oats. Oats are the grain of choice for most horse owners and horses. The bulky nature of oats permits horse owners maximum liberty in their use with minimum danger of digestive disorders. Even the pickiest horses find oats to their liking. Oats are higher in protein (around 12 percent crude protein) than most grains, which makes them useful with low-protein grass hays. However, half-legume hay ensures a more complete ration when oats are fed as the only grain. Some disadvantages are expense on a digestible energy basis and variability in quality. Federal grades are No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and Sample. Grades 1 and 2 are the best buy.

Although oats are an excellent horse feed, when cost and/or convenience dictate, most rations can be formulated satisfactorily without them.

Corn. Corn is a good feed that is used extensively in the Midwest. About 15 percent less corn would equal a given weight of oats in energy value. For this reason, corn is especially useful for improving the condition of thin horses and maintaining condition of those at hard work. It is often a good buy on an energy basis, even exceeding hay on occasion.

Because of its high energy content and low fiber, corn must be fed with more care than oats to avoid colic. Corn and oats, in equal parts, make an excellent grain ration. Corn can supply all of the grain when fed according to the work that horses are performing and when large amounts are not given at one time.

Some people call corn a "heating" feed in warm weather. This theory is not easy to explain, because "heat" produced by digestion is greater for fibrous feeds, such as hays and oats, than for corn. Probably a major reason is that horses eating corn tend to stay fatter than others, especially if they are not regularly exercised.

Grain Sorghum. Grain sorghum can be substituted for corn in most rations. It varies in protein content from 6 to 12 percent, it has little vitamin A, and some varieties are unpalatable. Grain sorghum is best when used in a grain mixture. In some areas, grain sorghum is often a better buy than corn. It should be cracked or rolled.

Barley. Barley is a very satisfactory feed when ground and fed as described for corn. Fifteen percent wheat bran or 25 percent oats fed with barley almost eliminates the risk of colic.

Wheat. Wheat is seldom fed to horses except in the Pacific Northwest. It can be fed as a part of the grain ration--about one-third--when fed with a bulky feed. Wheat should be rolled or coarsely ground. Wheat tends to be doughy when moist and produces palatability problems.

Wheat Bran. Wheat bran is highly palatable, slightly laxative, and very bulky. Horse owners have long preferred "bran mashes" for animals stressed by extreme fatigue, foaling, or sickness. Bran is reasonably high in protein, high in phosphorus, and, like other grains, low in calcium. Because of its high energy cost, it is generally used at levels of 5 to 15 percent of the ration.

Cane Molasses. The addition of 5 to 10 percent molasses reduces dust and increases palatability of a ration. Greater amounts will have too great a laxative effect. It is very low in protein and usually expensive on an energy basis. Dried molasses is often added to the grain ration to increase consumption.

Protein Supplements

The horse's need for protein is relatively low and easy to meet with practical rations. Except for milking mares, most 600- to 1,200-pound horses need from .75 to 1 pound of digestible protein (DP) daily. If the roughage is half-legume hay fed in adequate amounts, the protein need will be met. However, supplementing rations of young growing horses is insurance against a deficiency and stimulates appetite. The hair coat of horses being fitted for show will bloom to a higher degree when about 1 pound of an oil meal is supplied daily. However, large amounts will cause a laxative effect (Figure 13-4).
Feedstuff Rules of Thumb

Nutrition is a complex topic. For the
novice, remembering everything can be
difficult. Specific information can be
learned from books, tables, and people. General
rules of thumb are helpful and easy to remember.

Here are some rules of thumb about the
nutrient content of feedstuffs for horses.

* Rule #1 for Energy: Total digestible
nutrients (TDN), or calories, for hay is
about 50 percent; for grains it is about
75 percent.

* Rule #2 for Protein: The protein
content for alfalfa and clovers (legumes)
is about 14 to 16 percent; for grasses it
is 7 to 10 percent.

* Rule #3 for Minerals: Legumes are
rich in calcium; grasses are fair. All
forages are low in phosphorus. Grains
are high in phosphorus, but low in

* Rule #4 for Vitamins: Forages are
high in vitamins; grains are low.

Four rules are easier to remember than entire
feed tables. Of course, when accurate information
is needed, feed tables and laboratory tests
should be consulted.

Protein supplementation is needed when poor-quality, late-cut grass hays are fed. Some of the protein supplements used for horses are linseed meal, soybean meal, and cottonseed meal.

Linseed Meal (30 to 32 percent protein). "Old process" or "expeller-type" linseed meal was considered by horse owners to be effective in blooming the hair coat. It contained a fatty acid (linoleic) that may be deficient in standard horse rations. "New process" or "solvent" processing removes this fatty acid from linseed meal. Because linseed meal is not well balanced in amino acids, use of solvent process is hard to justify.

Fitters of show horses who use legume hay may find the laxative effect of linseed meal too intense for their programs.


Soybean Meal (42 to 50 percent protein). Soybean meal is a preferred supplement for horses. It is higher in protein, has a better balance of amino acids, and in the Midwest it is cheaper than other supplements.

Cottonseed Meal (40 to 45 percent protein). Cottonseed meal is used extensively for horses in the Southwest. It seldom costs less than soybean meal in the Midwest and is not as palatable, so the extent of its use is limited.

Commercial Protein Supplements. These vary in composition, protein level, and price. They often contain needed minerals and vitamins and are convenient for those who do not wish to formulate their own horse rations. Some may be expensive. Commercial supplements are usually formulated for a specific feeding program. They should be fed according to directions.

Other Protein Supplements. Alfalfa meal, corn gluten meal, meat meals, and others can be used as protein supplements for horses.


Trace-mineralized salt contains no calcium, and phosphorus and dicalcium phosphorus are not a source of selenium, manganese, or other trace minerals. A horse has a natural craving for salt, but has neither an appetite for nor an instinct to seek out sources of calcium or phosphorus. Limestone and dicalcium phosphate are rich but unpalatable sources. Therefore, the way to supplement horses with calcium or phosphorus is to mix them with trace-mineralized salt, limestone or dicalcium phosphate.

Commercial Feeds

Commercially prepared feeds may actually provide nutrients such as trace minerals, vitamins, and protein supplements in a less-expensive form than the individual horse owner can provide.

But a word of warning: Aside from providing adequate nutrition, no nutrient or supplement will (a) make the hoof grow faster and stronger; (b) cure a curb, spavin, ringbone, etc.; (c) increase conception in mares or libido in stallions; (d) increase intelligence; (e) prevent colic; or (f) cure heaves, sleeping sickness, and equine infectious anemia (EIA). In short, horse owners should not be fooled into buying magic from a bottle or a can.


Based on the information in this chapter, the following sample rations can be modified to fit the needs of individual horses and horse owners. Tables 13-5 through 13-8 provide sample rations for a foal, a weanling, a 2-year-old, a pregnant or lactating mare, and an adult horse. Information for each ration provides the amount of each ingredient needed to make a half-ton or a ton of feed. The amounts can be adjusted mathematically to make smaller or larger amounts of feed.

Table 13-5 provides a sample ration for a creep-feeding foal. This ration should not be used after weaning because it is too high in protein and calcium unless it is fed with a nonlegume hay (Figure 13-5).

Table 13-6 is an example of a ration for a weanling horse. This ration is lower in protein and calcium but higher in energy than the ration in Table 13-5.

The example ration shown in Table 13-7 is lower still in protein and calcium than the rations in either Table 13-5 or 13-6. If a mare is obese in late pregnancy, she does not need grain and can be maintained on a good-quality hay.

The ration example in Table 13-8 is too low in protein, calcium, and phosphorus for weanlings and lactating mares. It is marginal for mares in late pregnancy.



Formulating an adequate ration for a horse is simple if these steps are followed:

1. Know what the horse requires.

2. Know what kind of feed will fill those requirements economically.

3. Know what feeds are palatable.

4. Know how much of a given feed the horse can eat.

5. Know how to calculate the amount of a nutrient in a feed.

The most common feeding problem confronting horse people is figuring what percentage of a given nutrient is in a mixed ration. Referring to tables will show how much protein, digestible energy, or calcium is in corn or oats but will not be specific for a mixed feed of unequal parts of corn, oats, and soybean meal. To figure the nutrient content of a mixed grain ration, simply multiply the pounds of each of the feedstuffs in the mixture (corn, oats, soybean meal, etc.) by the percentage of the nutrient (digestible energy, protein, calcium, etc.) that each feed contains. Total the amounts obtained and divide by the number of pounds of feed in the mixture. This procedure provides a weighted average.

A Sample Calculation

For example, what is the protein content of a feed that contains 500 pounds of oats, 400 pounds of corn, and 30 pounds of soybean meal? To find the protein content of a mixed feed:

1. Find the protein content of each of the feedstuffs in Table 13-1.

2. Multiply this value by the number of pounds of that feedstuff in the mixture.

3. Next find the total pounds of protein in the feed mixture.

4. Finally, divide the total amount of protein in the feed mixture by the total weight of the feed mixture and convert this to a percentage.

The following example shows how.
               Protein in        Feedstuff       Protein
Feedstuff      Feedstuff         in Mix          in Mix

Oats           0.118 lb/lb   x   500         =    59 lbs
Corn           0.091 lb/lb   x   400         =    36 lbs
Soybean meal   0.445 lb/lb   x    30         =    13 lbs
Total                            930             108 lbs

108 lbs of protein in mix/930 lbs of feed mix
x 100 = 11.6 percent protein in the mixture

This process will work with the digestible energy, calcium, and phosphorus of the feed mix.

The common error is to add up the protein content of the corn, oats, and soybean meal and divide by 3. But if corn and oats constitute 90 percent of the mixture, they naturally have a greater effect on the average composition than soybean meal, which makes up only 10 percent of the mixture.


Because feeding horses is as much an art as it is a science, the following guidelines will help horse owners successfully feed their horses.

1. Feed only quality feeds.

2. Feed balanced rations.

3. Feed half the weight of the ration as quality hay.

4. Feed higher protein and mineral rations to growing horses and lactating mares.

5. Feed legume hay to young, growing horses; lactating mares; and out-of-condition horses.

6. Use nonlegume hays for adult horses.

7. Regulate the hay-to-grain ratio to control condition in adult horses.

8. Feed salt separately, free-choice.

9. Feed calcium and phosphorus free-choice.

10. Keep teeth functional. Horses 5 years and older should be checked annually by a veterinarian to see if their teeth need floating (filing).

11. See that stabled horses get exercise--they will eat better, digest food better, and be less prone to colic.

12. Feed according to the individuality of horse. Some horses are hard keepers and need more feed per unit of body weight.

13. Feed by weight, not volume. A gallon of two different grains may vary in nutrient content.

14. Minimize the use of finely ground feedstuffs in a prepared ration. If a ration is ground fine, horses will be reluctant to eat it and the chances of colic will increase.

15. Offer plenty of good water, no colder than 45?F. Free-choice water is best. Horses should be watered at least twice daily.

16. Change feeds gradually. When changing from a low-density (low-grain), high-fiber ration to one of increased density, change gradually over a period of a week or more.

17. Start horses on feed slowly. Horses on pasture should be started on dry feed gradually. Start this on pasture if practical, and gradually increase the feed to the desired amount in a week to 10 days.

18. Do not feed grain to tired or hot horses until they have cooled and rested, preferably for 1 or 2 hours. Instead, feed hay while they rest in their blankets or out of drafts.

19. Feed before work. Hungry horses should finish eating at least an hour before hard work.

20. Feed all confined horses at least twice daily. If horses are working hard and consuming a lot of grain, three times is mandatory.

21. When feeding hay, give half the hay allowance at night, when horses have more time to eat and digest it.


Feeding horses is part art and part science. High-quality roughages form the basis for feeding horses. The nutritional needs of the horse change depending on its condition, activity level, age, gestational stage, or lactation. Additional nutritional needs can be met by feeding concentrates and protein supplements. The ration of a horse may also need mineral supplementation to cover its calcium, phosphorus, and other mineral requirements. Some vitamins may be added from a premix. Horse owners can make their own rations or buy commercially prepared feeds.


Success in any career requires knowledge. Test your knowledge of this chapter by answering these questions or solving these problems.

True or False

1. Founder in horses can occur on lush pasture.

2. Legume hays are low in protein.

3. Oats are the horse's favorite grain.

4. Feed changes for horses should occur slowly.

5. Commercial feeds can cure all ills of the horse.

Short Answer

6. How many acres of pasture does a horse require for maintenance?

7. List the four groups of feeds for horses.

8. List five types of hay for horses.

9. Name five horse feeding/management recommendations.

10. If a horse is working hard, how many times a day should it be fed?

Critical Thinking/Discussion

11. What is the role of roughage in the horse's diet?

12. How does the horse owner supplement horse rations with minerals?

13. Explain the five guidelines or steps for formulating a ration for a horse.

14. What is an advantage of stable feeding? Of pasture feeding?

15. Using Table 13-1, calculate the digestible energy, protein, and calcium content of a feed that contains 600 lb of oats, 200 lb of corn, and 30 lb of soybean meal.

16. Define the term dry matter.


1. Identify in a diagram the external and internal structures associated with the digestive system of the horse. (Use Chapter 5 as a guide.)

2. Obtain samples of protein feeds, for example, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and commercial protein supplements. Use published composition tables and compare each feed. Observe differences in the smell, texture, etc. Compare the costs. Share this information in a presentation.

3. Use a computer program to balance the diet of a racehorse or a pregnant mare. Figure the cost of the diet.

4. Contact suppliers of horse equipment to obtain information on feeders and compare the different types.

5. Collect fresh samples of some typical horse feedstuffs and determine their dry-matter content. Weigh the samples at collection time. Dry (do not cook) these samples in an oven and weigh them again. Use the data generated to calculate the percentage of dry matter.

6. Collect and display various feed samples. Use these samples to develop a feed identification test.



Cheek, P. R. (2004). Applied animal nutrition: Feeds and feeding (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Evans, J. W. (2000). Horses: A guide to selection, care, and enjoyment (3rd ed.). New York: Owl Books.

Lewis, L. D. (1996). Feeding and care of the horse (2nd ed.). Media, PA: Williams & Wilkins.

Prince, E. F., & Collier, G. M. (1989). Basic horse care. New York: Doubleday.

Subcommittee on Horse Nutrition, National Research Council. (1989). Nutrient requirements of horses (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.1

University of Missouri-Columbia Extension Division. (n.d.). Missouri horse care and guide book. Columbia: Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri and Lincoln University.

Worth, M. (2004). Storey's guide to feeding horses: Lifelong nutrition, feed storage, feeding tips, pasture management. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.


Internet sites represent a vast resource of information, but remember that the URLs (uniform resource locator) for World Wide Web sites can change without notice. Using one of the search engines on the Internet such as Yahoo!, Google or, find more information by searching for these words or phrases:


feeding horses

feeding management of horses

forage for horses

grass hays

horse rations

legume hays

pastures for horses

poisonous plants

protein supplements




Table A-18 in the appendix also provides a listing of some useful Internet sites that can serve as a starting point for further exploration.


(1.) A new edition of Nutrient Requirements of Horses was due to be published in January 2007. This new edition features a detailed review of scientific literature, summarizing all the latest information, and provides a new set of requirements based on revised data. Unfortunately, this new edition was not available at the time of publication but the reader can order it or view it at The National Academies Press (
TABLE 13-1 Composition of Some Common Horse Feedstuffs (1)

                                Dry          Digestible   Crude
                                Matter (2)   Energy       Protein
Feedstuffs                      (Percent)    (mcal/lb)    (lb/lb)


Alfalfa: Early bloom               90.5         1.02        0.180
         Full bloom                90.9         0.89        0.155
Red clover                         88.4         0.89        0.132
Orchard grass: Early bloom         89.1         0.88        0.114
               Late bloom          90.6         0.78        0.076
Bromegrass: Mid-bloom              87.6         0.85        1.260
Timothy: Early bloom               89.1         0.83        0.096
         Late bloom                88.3         0.72        0.069
Fescue: Full bloom                 91.9         0.86       0.1181
Mixed: 30% legume                  89.0         0.93       0.1332

                                  Concentrates/Protein Supplements

Barley                             88.6         1.49        0.117
Corn                               88.0         1.54        0.091
Oats                               89.2         1.30        0.118
Wheats, red                        88.4         1.55        0.114
Wheat bran                         89.1         1.33        0.154
Soybean meal                       89.1         1.43        0.445
Linseed meal                       90.2         1.25        0.346
Molasses (blackstrap)              74.3         1.18        0.043
Vegetable oil                      99.8         4.08          --

                                         Mineral Supplements

                                  100.0          --           --
Limestone, CaC[O.sub.3]
Oystershell                        99.0          --           --
Bonemeal, steamed                  97.0          --           --
Rock phosphate, defl.             100.0          --           --
Dicalcium phosphate                97.0          --           --
Sodium triphosphate                96.0          --           --

                                Calcium      Phosphorus   Vitamin A
Feedstuffs                      (g/lb)       (g/lb)       (1,000 IU/lb)


Alfalfa: Early bloom               5.81         0.86        23.00
         Full bloom                4.90         0.99        10.74
Red clover                         5.53         0.99         9.88
Orchard grass: Early bloom         1.09         1.36         6.08
               Late bloom          1.09         1.22         3.29
Bromegrass: Mid-bloom              1.13         1.13         2.45
Timothy: Early bloom               2.04         1.13         8.51
         Late bloom                1.54         0.59         7.23
Fescue: Full bloom                 0.81         1.32         8.73
Mixed: 30% legume                  0.66         1.10        11.72

                                  Concentrates/Protein Supplements

Barley                             0.23         1.54         0.37
Corn                               0.23         1.27         0.98
Oats                               0.36         1.54         0.02
Wheats, red                        0.14         1.77          --
Wheat bran                         0.59         5.13         0.48
Soybean meal                       1.59         2.86          --
Linseed meal                       1.77         3.63          --
Molasses (blackstrap)              3.36         0.36          --
Vegetable oil                       --           --           --

                                         Mineral Supplements

                                 178.67         0.18          --
Limestone, CaC[O.sub.3]
Oystershell                      170.64         0.31          --
Bonemeal, steamed                135.12        56.58          --
Rock phosphate, defl.            145.15        81.65          --
Dicalcium phosphate               96.81        83.73          --
Sodium triphosphate                 --        108.86          --

(1) Derived from Nutrient Requirements of Horses, by the
National Research Council, 1989.

(2) All nutrients are expressed on an as-fed basis.

TABLE 13-2
Average Amounts of Good-Quality Hay to Feed
to a Mare in Dry Lot or Stall

Body Weight (lbs)   Daily Amount of Hay (lbs)

  800                       12 to 16
  900                       14 to 18
1,000                       15 to 20
1,100                       17 to 22
1,200                       18 to 24
1,300                       20 to 26

TABLE 13-3 Pasture Stocking Rate for 1,100-Pound Mare

Condition                   Animal Units (1)

Maintenance                       1.0
Light work (2 hours/day)          1.4
Medium work (2 hours/day)         1.8
Last 90 days of pregnancy         1.1
Peak lactation                    1.8

(1) Animal units describe the carrying capacity of a pasture.

TABLE 13-4
Amount of Hay and Grain to Be Fed to a 1,100-Pound Mare
during Late Gestation

                                             Grain Mix
                                  Hay        (10% CP) (1)

Status                            Pounds     Pounds

Open or early to mid-pregnancy    17 to 22   --
Pregnant (9 months to term)       14 to 15   5 to 6
Early lactation (0 to 3 months)   14 to 15   10 to 12
Late lactation (>3 months)        14 to 15   6 to 7

                                  Grazing or Grass Hay

                                             Grain Mix
                                  Hay        (14% CP)

Status                            Pounds     Pounds

Open or early to mid-pregnancy    17 to 22   --
Pregnant (9 months to term)       14 to 15   6 to 7
Early lactation (0 to 3 months)   14 to 15   12 to 14
Late lactation (>3 months)        14 to 15   7 to 8

(1) CP = Crude protein.

TABLE 13-5 Foal Creep Ration

                             Pounds to Make   Pounds to Make
Ingredients                   1/2 Ton         1 Ton

Oats (crimped or crushed)            440              880
Corn (coarsely cracked)              220              440
Soybean meal (44 percent)            240              480
Molasses (liquid)                     70              140
Dicalcium phosphate                   15               30
Limestone                             10               20
Salt (trace mineral)                   5               10
Vitamins A, D, E to supply
    4,000 IU/lb                      --               --
  Total pounds                     1,000            2,000

Notes: Crude protein in the diet is 18 percent.
Calcium in the diet is 0.88 percent.
Phosphorus in the diet is 0.60 percent.
Feed this grain ration free-choice with good legume hay
to foals from 2 weeks old to weaning or to early weaned
foals from 3 to 8 months old.

TABLE 13-6 Weanling Horse Ration

                            Pounds to Make   Pounds to Make
Ingredients                 1/2 Ton          1 Ton

Oats (crimped or crushed)              440              880
Corn (coarsely cracked)                270              540
Soybean meal (44 percent)              190              380
Molasses (liquid)                       75              150
Dicalcium phosphate                     10               20
Limestone                               10               20
Salt (trace mineral)                     5               10
Vitamins A, D, E to
    supply 4,000 IU/lb                 --               --
  Total pounds                       1,000            2,000

Notes: Crude protein in the diet is 16.31 percent.
Calcium in the diet is 0.75 percent.
Phosphorus in the diet is 0.55 percent.
Feed this grain ration to weanlings. Add good legume
or at least half-legume hay at the rate of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. Feed hay free-choice.

TABLE 13-7 Yearling, Two-year-old, Late
Pregnancy, and Lactating Mare Ration

                            Pounds to Make   Pounds to Make
Ingredients                 1/2 Ton          1 Ton

Oats (crimped or crushed)              440              880
Corn (coarsely cracked)                340              680
Soybean meal (44 percent)              130              260
Molasses (liquid)                       70              140
Dicalcium phosphate                      5               10
Limestone                               10               20
Salt (trace mineral)                     5               10
Vitamins A, D, E to
    supply 4,000 IU/lb                 --               --
  Total pounds                       1,000            2,000

Notes: Crude protein in the diet is 14.3 percent.
Calcium in the diet is 0.61 percent.
Phosphorus in the diet is 0.43 percent.

Feed this ration at the beginning of the yearling year with
good legume or at least half-legume hay or good pasture.
Regulate intake to control the desired degree of condition.
Four to 8 pounds daily should be adequate.

As growing horses approach 18 months of age, nonlegume hay
is adequate with enough grain to maintain condition.

TABLE 13-8 Adult Horse, Early Pregnancy, and Late Two-year-old Ration

                            Pounds to Make   Pounds to Make
Ingredients                  1/2 Ton         1 Ton

Oats (crimped or crushed)         500            1,000
Corn (coarsely cracked)           390              780
Soybean meal (44 percent)          30               60
Molasses (liquid)                  65              130
Dicalcium phosphate                 3                6
Limestone                           7               14
Salt (trace mineral)                5               10
Vitamins A, D, E to
    supply 4,000 IU/lb            --               --
  Total pounds                  1,000            2,000

Notes: Crude protein in the diet is 11.0 percent.
Calcium in the diet is 0.43 percent.
Phosphorus in the diet is 0.36 percent.
This ration is designed for adult and 2-year-old idle and
working horses and for mares until the last 3 months of
pregnancy. It may be fed with either legume or nonlegume
hay, but nonlegume hay will result in fewer digestive
upsets with hardworking horses eating large amounts of
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Author:Parker, Rick
Publication:Equine Science, 3rd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 12 Digestion and nutrition.
Next Article:Chapter 14 Health management.

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