What do horses eat?




Horses are magnificent creatures that have been domesticated for thousands of years. They are herbivores and have specific dietary needs to maintain optimal health and performance. Understanding what horses eat is crucial for their overall well-being. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of a horse's diet, including their natural grazing habits, nutritional requirements, and recommended feeding practices.

The Natural Diet of Horses

Horses are grazing animals, naturally adapted to consume a diet consisting mainly of roughage. In the wild, they spend the majority of their day grazing on grasses and other forage plants. This high-fiber diet is essential for their digestive system to function properly and maintain a healthy gut.

Grass and Forage

Grass is the primary source of nutrition for horses. It provides them with essential nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Horses have evolved to efficiently extract nutrients from grass, using their specialized teeth and a complex digestive system.

Pasture grazing is the ideal way to provide horses with their natural diet. It allows them to exercise, socialize, and maintain a constant intake of forage throughout the day. However, not all horse owners have access to ample pasture, and alternative forage options should be considered.


Hay plays a crucial role in a horse's diet, especially when pasture is limited or unavailable. It is essentially dried grass or other forage plants that are cut, dried, and stored for feeding purposes. Hay provides horses with the necessary roughage, maintaining their digestive health and preventing boredom.

There are different types of hay, including timothy, alfalfa, orchard grass, and clover. Each type has its own nutritional composition, and the choice depends on the horse's specific needs. Timothy hay, for example, is lower in calories and protein, making it suitable for horses with weight management issues.


In addition to grass and hay, horses may require concentrates to meet their nutritional requirements, especially if they have higher energy demands, such as working horses or pregnant mares. Concentrates include grains, pelleted feeds, and supplements.

It is essential to choose concentrates that are specifically formulated for horses, as their nutritional needs differ from other animals. A balanced concentrate should provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, and proteins without overloading the horse's diet. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine the appropriate concentrate for each horse.


Water is a vital component of a horse's diet and should always be readily available. Horses can consume large amounts of water, especially during warmer weather or increased physical activity. Access to clean, fresh water ensures proper hydration and supports overall health.

Feeding Practices

Feeding horses should be approached with careful consideration to ensure their nutritional needs are met. Here are some recommended feeding practices:

1. Regular feeding schedule: Horses thrive on routine, so establishing a consistent feeding schedule is beneficial. They should be fed at the same times each day to avoid digestive upsets and maintain steady energy levels.

2. Slow and steady: Horses have a sensitive digestive system, and rapid changes in diet can lead to colic or other digestive issues. Any changes to their diet should be introduced gradually over a period of several days.

3. Monitor body condition: Regularly assessing a horse's body condition score helps determine if their diet is appropriate. Adjustments in forage or concentrates may be necessary to maintain a healthy weight.

4. Avoid overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to obesity, metabolic disorders, and other health problems. It is crucial to feed horses according to their individual needs and activity levels.


Understanding what horses eat is essential for their overall health and well-being. Grass, forage, hay, and concentrates are all important components of a horse's diet, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal performance. Implementing proper feeding practices, such as a regular schedule and gradual diet changes, helps maintain a healthy digestive system and prevents potential health issues. By providing horses with a balanced diet, we can ensure they lead happy, healthy lives.

Julieth Bill

Hi, I'm Julieth Bill. Before I was a writer for the NBCpet.com blog I was known for inventive and unusual treatments of dogs, cats, bird, fish, snakes, horses, rabbit, reptiles, and guinea pigs. Julieth worked for major zoos around the world. He Also Receives Pets a Scholarship.

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