How to grass feed a horse

Horses are naturally habituated with feeding grass. An average horse can live on only grass or pasture without supplementing concentrates. A good pasture with a balanced combination of different types of horse grass can supply balanced nutrition for adequate growth, development, performance, and reproduction. The successful equine breeding or training farm operations and horse rearing mainly depend on the adequate and uninterrupted supply of green fodder round the year.

What Type of Grass Do Horses Need?

Horses are single stomach animals. Their stomach is small, and the large intestine is enormous. The horses need small quantities of food frequently due to their small-sized stomach. The large intestine is responsible for the digestion and absorption of the bulk of their food in the large intestine. The horse grass should be soft, tender, easily digestible, palatable, and of high nutritional value. The horse’s maximum nutrient requirement can be met from the quantity of fodder can consume by the horse.

The necessity of Grass for Horses

High-quality grass is essential for a horse diet. The horses are herbivorous animals, and they need high fiber in their diet than starch or energy to maintain their health. This can be provided by supplying quality horse grass with their daily ration. High-quality pasture grass is the best food for horses with everyday work. The horses kept confined to stable should be allowed to grass on pasture. The pasture feeding will enhance palatability and exercise.

The Digestion of Grass in Horse Digestive System

Horses need at least 2% of fiber of their total body weight. The horse grasp grasses by lips and incisor teeth; mastication by molar teeth and engulfed by the esophagus in the stomach. The grass is mainly digested in the large intestine. The microbial digestion of grass started in the large intestine in the cecum and colon.

Types of Horse Grass

Horse grass is mainly two types based on the season of the year; winter grass and summer grass. The grass can be classified as a pasture grass, seasonal grass, long grass, short grass, medium grass, legumes, etc. The winter grasses are rich in protein, have less moisture, and are highly nutritious. The summer grasses use water and have less protein. They produce most of the forages as they use most of the soil nutrients.

Most Common Horse Grass Species

1. Horse Grass: Maize (Zea mays)

Maize is the most common and highly palatable fodder for horses. Maize can be grown in winter, summer, early winter, and even throughout the years. The fodder can be grown by 60-70 days after sowing. The crude protein content of maize is 8-10% and is the maintenance-type crop. The food value of maize as fodder is greatly enhanced by mixed cropping with legumes like cowpeas.

2. Oats (Avena sativa)

Fodder is highly nutritious and rich in crude protein, fiber, and energy. Fodder can be harvested in different stages of growth. The nutritional value of fodder depends on the stages of growth. The highest nutritional value is obtained during the early flowering stage of growth. The oats are the most important cereal fodder crops of winter or rabi season. You can feed oats to your horse as fodder, hay, silage, or haylage. The crude protein content of this horse grass is around 7-8% and can be increased up to 11% by adding nitrogenous fertilizer.

3. Berseem (Trifolium alexandrium)

Berseem is a highly nutritious leguminous fodder grass for horses. The fodder is a winter season grass. The berseem fodder is considered the king of all fodder crops. Berseem is sowed in September and can get the first cut after 55 days. The berseem fodder can be further cut after every 30 days up to May. The nutritional value of berseem is very lucrative, containing 17% CP, 26% crude fiber, and 60-65% digestible energy.

4. Horse Grass: Lucerne or Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Lucerne or alfalfa is one of the most common legume forage for horses. The grass is perennial and found throughout the world. The horse grass can be well set as grazing pasture, haymaking, silage making, green manure, and cover crops with oats. The fodder contains around 15% crude protein.

5. Sorghum (Andropogon sorghum)

Sorghum is an important, nutritious, and palatable fodder crop that can be fed as grees grass, hay, or silage to horses. There are mainly two varieties of sorghum; single cut and multiple cut. The seeds should be sown with a drill in rows about 2-5 cm deep. You can sow in between the lines legumes like cowpea, alfalfa, or both. After each cutting, you can sow legumes in-between. The fodder contains 4-5% crude protein.

6. Pearl Millet (Pennisetum americanum)

Pearl millet or Bajra is the highest yielding fodder crop amongst the summer crops. The fodder is leafy, succulent, and has satisfactory proteins. Bajra grows very fast and can attain maturity than many other fodder crops. The fodder crops do not contain any hydrogen cyanide (HCN); that’s why it is very safe for animals. The fodder crop can be mixed cultivated with legumes and cowpea.

7. Giant Napier (Pennisetum purpureum)

Giant Napier or elephant grass is fodder with tremendous growth potential. The Napier grass can be cultivated throughout the year and has multi-cut. The grass is mainly of summer fodder, and yield is comparatively low in winter. The grass is suitable for silage making, while it is abundant in yield in summer.

8. Para Grass (Brachiaria mutica)

Brachiaria mutica , commonly known as para grass, is a perennial, multi-cut, soft-stemmed fodder for horses. Para grass contains 11%vcrude protein and 23% crude fiber. The fodder can be grown in low drainage areas.

9. Teosinte ( Euchlaena maxicana)

Teosinte is a common succulent fodder crop with excellent yield. The average height of the grass is 6-7n feet. Teosinte is a multi-cut hardy crop with fair resistance to pests and diseases, stress, and excess soil moisture. The country of origin of this horse grass is central American country, Mexico.

10. Cowpea (Vigna ungiculata)

Cowpea is a quick-growing leguminous forage crop suitable for horses and other domestic animals. Cowpea is suitable for fodder, hay, silage, and cover crops. The fodder can be quickly grown mixed with other fodders like maize, teosinte, Napier, and other cash crops. The cowpea is also an excellent clover crop that suppresses the growth of the weed and adds nutrients to the soil.

Concluding Remarks on Horse Grass

Horses mainly live on the grass in pastures. If the horses’ pasture has different categories of horse grass that supply balanced nutrition is sufficient for the daily maintenance of your horse. I have discussed the most common horse grass in my article with a short description. You can cultivate different varieties of horse grass in consultation with an equine nutritionist. My article will help you select the right and economic grass species for your valuable horses.

How to grass feed a horse

Jillian Dara is a fact checker for The Spruce Pets, reviewing articles about pet care and pet products for factual accuracy and consistency. She has more than five years of experience in lifestyle editing and media and has been published in a variety of prestigious outlets.

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How to grass feed a horse

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All members of the equine family have evolved to extract their necessary nutrition from grasses. Horses and donkeys especially are able to extract nutrients from coarse grasses and plants that might not support a larger horse. Their teeth are suited to grinding the coarse plant fiber, and the long, slow digestive system efficiently extracts nutrients and energy from the plants it eats.

Some horses are easy keepers and are able to live quite well on minimal pastures. Others will be starved for nutrition. A horse that is working very hard may not get enough nutrition. It really depends on the type of horse you have and what its job is as to whether or not it will thrive on a diet of grass, especially one that isn’t top-notch.

Grass and Nutrients

On the best quality pasture, horses should be able to get all the nutrients they need. This, after all, is what they naturally eat in the wild. Unfortunately, very few owners, through no fault of their own, have top quality pastures. Overgrazing, drought, freezing, poor management, poor soil, and snow cover all affect the quality of the grass and the horse’s ability to extract adequate nutrition. Some of these conditions can be compensated for with good pasture management and soil amendments.

Even with good care, a perfect growing season, and excellent soil, most horses will require supplementation with minerals, fodder, or concentrates for at least part of the year. Early spring, winter, and fall may slow grass growth and make the grass less than optimum for your horse. Be prepared to supplement with hay and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Watch your horse’s condition and for signs of weight loss. Again, each horse is an individual, so what works for one might not be suitable for another.

How to grass feed a horse


Avoid overgrazing by limiting the number of horses on pasture and by rotating pastures, so the grass has time to recover after grazing. Horses will crop grass down to the soil level, which means in hot, dry conditions, grass may burn and dry out before it has a chance to grow. A lot of horses kept in a small area means the soil will become compacted, and that makes it very difficult for anything but the most aggressive weeds to grow.


Although a weedy pasture may look green, it doesn’t provide a lot of nutrition for your horse, and some may even be toxic if eaten in quantity.

In some areas, minerals or other nutrients might be depleted from the soil, leaving a deficit in the nutritional value to the horse. Selenium, in particular, is of concern to horse owners. This mineral is scarce in many areas of North America, and that means horses won’t be getting enough from grass or hay. A balanced supplement is ideal for replacing this essential mineral. Selenium is an important antioxidant and a deficiency can cause something called white muscle disease. If your horse is prone to tying-up, which is a painful stiffness of the muscles after work, a lack of selenium may be part of the problem.

Ponies, donkeys, and some mules may need to be restricted from eating too much fresh grass as they metabolize their food much more efficiently. Overeating can easily cause obesity and health problems like founder, which is a painful inflammation within the hooves. Even horses that do quite well on rich pasture may need a period of adjustment if they’ve been eating hay, say after a long winter. A quick change can cause colic and other health problems.


The simple answer is yes. A pasture can potentially be the sole source of nutrition for a horse. Given the variability of a horse’s own metabolism and needs, though, pasture alone may not be sufficient for your horse. This is why keeping a careful watch over your horse’s condition is essential.

Plants Toxic to Horses. Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences.

Selenium in the Equine Diet. American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Blog By Cass Wright

Grass is abundant and cheap, so it is likely you have considered feeding it to your horses – but is this a good idea? It can be, as all horses have evolved to extract their nutrition from grass. This is especially true for smaller horses like donkeys and ponies as their teeth are suited to grinding up coarse grass fibers, and their slow digestion makes it easier for them to extract nutrients from the plants. However, it is important to make sure that you choose the right type of grass to feed your horses, as some types of grass are far less nutritious than others. It is also worth noting that larger horses will need to have a more nutrient-rich diet that includes alfalfa and properly made hay, especially if they are very active and need more energy.

How to grass feed a horse

Which Grass Should You Choose?

Another popular option in the U.S. is Ryegrass. Ryegrass is available in both perennial and annual varieties, and it is best to choose an annual option so that your horse has a constant source of food. However, it is worth noting that Ryegrass can host a fungi called endophyte, and this can poison horses, causing them to stagger and tremble. So if you decide to get this kind of grass, make sure that you check it is fungus free on a regular basis! Finally, you could also consider using Smooth Bromegrass. This is a perennial grass that grows well in most US soils, so it is very easy to plant and grow. Horses also seem to like the taste of Bromegrass, especially if it is supplemented with other nutritious plants.

Supplementing A Grass Diet

As horses tend to have a high energy lifestyle (when compared to other forms of cattle like sheep or cows), they need more nutrition than other species. For this reason it can be useful to supplement a grass diet with hay, oats, clover and alfalfa to make sure that your horse is getting a well-balanced diet. For instance alfalfa is a great source of calcium, which is hard to find in most types of grass. This is especially important if you have a large horse that you ride regularly, as it will require even more nutrients than a smaller horse!

Grass feed is a great diet option for horses, but you should supplement the diet with alfalfa and clover if your horse is very active. This way you can be sure that they are getting enough nutrients.

The best grass for horse grazing is often overlooked. Most grasses are aimed at producing rapid growth in farm animals, rather than quality growth for animals who are around a bit longer.

How to grass feed a horse

Farmers want their cows and sheep to grow quickly so they can profit by them. This rapid growth is not often in the interests of long term health in a horse, who hopefully lives a bit longer than the average farm animal. So the grasses used to raise cows and sheep should be different from those used for horses.

However, most pastures have been seeded with the grasses which aim at rapid growth. Using synthetic fertilisers and weed killers prevent the natural seeding of local grasses, which would be more in keeping with quality, but slower, growth.

Rapid growth has no benefit for animals, as it can lead to bone, teeth and hoof problems, just for a start. The grasses that promote rapid growth are those responsible for founder/laminitis in hardy horses and ponies who have evolved to do very well on spare vegetation.

Depending upon where you are in the world, indigenous grasses are better suited not only for your soil type, the underlying geology and the climate, but also tend to be favoured by grazing animals, given the choice.

Many horse grazing paddocks tend to be over grazed and are heavily reliant on synthetic fertilsers. A better way is to plant trees in the pasture. The ideal trees are deciduous, or those that shed a lot of leaves. This leaf litter rots down and naturally fertilsers the area. Rain water allows the nutrients to move slowly around a large area.

Because trees are deep rooted, they have access to a multitude of minerals that are deep in the soil. This is one reason why horses love to eat the bark off trees – they are after the minerals.

Not only do trees fertilise pastures, they provide much needed shelter for horses. You may need to protect them from any horse grazing on them as they grow.

It may take a little time to achieve the desired result, but once it is established, the pastures need no maintenance. Nature does it all for you.

If your paddock is on a slope, plant the trees on the higher ground, as the water will naturally travel down to the lower ground.

Good natural pasturalists will tell you pasture should contain at least 80 plants. ‘Weeds’ are deep rooted bringing up minerals that the more shallow rooted grasses can’t reach. Although these ‘weeds’ may not be grazed, they will die back, providing rich mineral content for next year’s grass. Many of the ‘weeds’ provide medicinal properties that horses enjoy as needed.

Buying good hay can be a problem in normal situations. Buying hay made from natural grasses may be impossible, at least at the moment. Do the best you can. Often people are persuaded to buy oaten hay or a monoculture hay, rather than hay made from a mixed pasture. They are afraid of ergot poisoning.

Ergots are more prone to flourishing in badly managed grasses, such as those which are heavily reliant on synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Those pastures that are kept naturally tend to have higher immunity to disease.

You can check for ergot as they appear as small, dark, elongated grains. As ergot is a fungus, check for a sweet smelling hay, free of any obvious fungus. Some people say the only horses at risk are pregnant mares.

If your horse is affected by ergot poisoning then homeopathic treatment is very effective.

You know how often people struggle with their horse’s health? They want to know WHY they suffer with health issues and all their veterinarian can offer is drugs and more drugs? They feel helpless and at the mercy of another. Well, what I do is to help you pinpoint WHY your horse is getting sick and implement a strategy that takes you to a feeling of empowerment, of being in control of their life. A strategy that restores their health and allows you, and them, to enjoy life.

Spring is here, and for some lucky horses this means spending time in a pasture eating grass. It is tempting to turn horses out into spring pastures at the first sight of green grass, especially after a long winter. However, spring grazing should be introduced slowly. How do you go about introducing horses to spring grass?

A good strategy is to wait until the grass in the pastures reach 6 to 8” (15 to 20 cm) in height. The first time out on grass should be just 15 minutes! Yes, that’s right, just 15 minutes.

1. What fraction of an hour is 15 minutes?

After the first day, increase the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of grazing time is reached.

Imagine you’re responsible for turning out the horses at a barn.

Spring has arrived and it’s time to schedule the horses’ transition from the winter time hay only diet to one that includes grazing.

How to grass feed a horse

2. How many days of turnout are required for the horses to be out for one hour?

3. After the first week, how many minutes will the horses be out on pasture?

4. How many hours will the horses be allowed to graze after 12 days?

5. How many days will it take to work up to 5 hours of grazing?

As well as the time restrictions, it is also a good practice to feed horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing days of the year. This will slow down their eating of the pasture grasses.

How to grass feed a horseOnce 5 hours is reached, the horses are safe to stay out as long as you like.

Why is it important to go slow when introducing horses to spring grass?

For one thing, green pastures are not natural to a horse! Think of horses in the wild, and the rangeland they graze over, it’s often pretty sparse, with horses walking miles each day to find enough to eat.

Another reason is that whenever a horse’s diet is changed, the change should be gradual. Turning a horse out on a lush green pasture after a hay only diet, could cause serious harm. Have you heard of the equine ailment called laminitis or founder?

Horse Talk – laminitis (founder): a common cause of lameness and disability in horses and ponies. It is a painful disease affecting the horse’s feet. One of the known causes is access to excessive amounts of pasture, hay, grain or pelleted feed.

As wonderful as it is for horses, not every horse owner has access to grass pastures. How many horse owners have access to spring and summer pastures and how do they manage them? In an effort to learn more about how horse owners manage this part of their horses’ lives, researchers polled members of the equestrian community. Here’s what they found.

How to grass feed a horse

Click to enlarge

6. What kind of graph is this?

How to grass feed a horse

Horse owners tend to have as many opinions about the right and wrong ways to do things as there are blades of grass in the pasture. But one thing most horsemen and horsewomen agree on is that hay is for horses. The type you select and how much you feed might differ from horse to horse (as it should!), but there are a few best practices that should come into play, no matter what type of hay you’re feeding or to what horse.

Safety First When Feeding Horses Hay

One thing we can all agree on is this: horses need high-quality hay that’s free from dust, mold and foreign matter. Getting your hay tested regularly (every few months or so) by your local agricultural extension is the best way to determine its quality. You should also do a daily quality check with your eyes and nose to catch any abnormalities. Top-quality hay should be green and sweet-smelling, not dusty, bleached-out or moldy.

Always remove the strings on square bales immediately when you break a bale apart to examine its contents before feeding. The string or plastic that binds together hay bales is irresistible to some horses, who may chew on it out of boredom — or even ingest it entirely. This can lead to very severe health problems for horses, from mere discomfort caused by ingesting (and if he’s lucky, passing) a long piece of string or plastic, to impaction colic. For this reason, it’s imperative to cut off both strings, double them over, and knot them so horses can’t accidentally get a foot through or try to eat strings in the unlikely event that they escape the trash bag.

Feed Hay to Horses Often

Hay can be a true superfood for horses. It’s one of the most common — and easiest to obtain — sources of forage and, when fed correctly, can also do a world of good to support horses’ digestive systems.

That’s because hay can closely mimic the natural feeding and digestive patterns of horses. Horses need to graze on small amounts of forage almost constantly. Hay, which provides fiber, nutrients and vitamins in a relatively low-calorie dose, can be fed in this manner all year round, allowing even horses with zero turnout time a chance to eat like their ancestors. Even easy-keeping horses can benefit from frequent access to hay when you feed it correctly.

How to Feed Horses Hay Safely

In order to gain the most benefit from hay, it’s important to provide it as frequently as possible. Free-choice hay is ideal. If you have an easy-keeper, you might consider avoiding protein-rich alfalfa and clover hay, which is higher in calories than mature timothy or grass hay. You also might consider double-bagging an easy-keeper’s hay net so he has to work harder to get at the hay. Otherwise, keep these general principles in mind when feeding:

  • If the ground is grassy and relatively dry, consider feeding hay on the ground to mimic the way a horse naturally grazes. However, if your soil is sandy or gravelly, elevate hay off the ground when feeding via a hay net or manger, as horses can ingest sand or gravel which can lead to impaction colic. Also, consider putting mats underneath nets or mangers for added protection when horses pick at the inevitable bits of dropped hay.
  • Don’t just drop a large round bale in the middle of a field of horses and expect they’ll all be able to eat from it. Pecking order dictates that the horse lowest on the totem pole won’t get as much to eat as the bully.
  • If you have a pecking-order problem, separate your problem horses into fenced-off paddocks. Or consider making several different piles of hay in the same paddock, separated by 15 feet or more.
  • Encourage movement. Frequent movement (again, mimicking the action of all-day grazing) helps horses’ digestive systems work more efficiently — another good reason to spread hay around in several separate piles.

If you’re ever wondering whether or not you’re feeding hay correctly, imagine your horse’s ancestors’ diets. Are you feeding hay slowly, constantly and without encouraging pasture fights? Then you’re probably doing it correctly to help your horse maintain a strong and healthy digestive system.

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How to grass feed a horse

Learn the horse hay pro’s and con’s of alfalfa, oat and grass hays. Which ones are best for your horses and how much hay you should be feeding them.

A word of advice from someone who has lost a horse to emphysema. regardless of what type of hay you choose to feed your horse. buy the best quality hay you can afford. Use only quality hay for horses. By doing the one simple thing, you greatly increase the health and life span of your horse.

How Much Hay Should I Feed My Horse?

Well, that all depends on the horse’s size, age and work load. A mature horse can eat 3% of its body weight daily. That’s 30 lbs of hay per day for a 1000 lb horse. This is only a rough guide. Your horse may need more or less feed depending on whether he’s an ‘easy keeper’ or a ‘ hard keeper’.

A good rule of thumb is to feed your horse the amount of hay she can clean up in about 1ВЅ – 2 hours. The roughage in horse hay requires a good bit of chewing. If your horse is cleaning it all up in less than an hour, chances are he’s not getting enough. If it takes more than 2 hours she’s more than likely trampling and wasting the excess hay.

A horse eats 2.5-3% of it’s body weight daily

A 1000 pound horse = 25-30 pounds of feed a day

Determine Feed Rations

Multiply your horse’s weight by .03 to find how many pounds of feed (hay and grain) your horse will need per day.

Unlike the predatory wolf, a horse’s gut is not designed to handle single large meals. As grazers, the horse is designed to eat small amounts all day long. Ideally a horse should eat several times a day, but this is not very practical for the horse owner! You should feed your horse a minimum of twice a day.

If your horse is getting too heavy, cut back on the feed…including grain rations. If your horse is loosing weight, increase the rations. A note about weight loss, be sure it is not due to parasites or the need for dental work. And pardon me while I sate the obvious:

Always feed your the amount needed to maintain a healthy body weight and condition!

There are Only 3 Types of Horse Hay

Legume (leafy) Hay

  • Alfalfa
  • Clover
  • Timothy
  • Orchard
  • Brome
  • Blue grass

Cereal Grain Hay

  • Oat hay
  • Barely
  • Wheat
  • Rye

How to grass feed a horse

Pound for pound, alfalfa and clover hay have the highest energy and nutritional value of all the hay types. They contain twice as much protein, three times the calcium and have the highest vitamin content.

These legumes make a good feed choice for growing foals, pregnant and lactating mares, as they have higher nutritional needs during this period in their lives. If grasses or cereal grain hays are fed, the additional nutrients can be made up for by adding grain rations.

The down side of clover and alfalfa hay is that the high protein content can be too much for some horses. That is, horses with laminitis or horses with allergies. High protein hay for horses can also contribute to heat exhaustion and excessive sweating for hard working horses in very hot areas.

Grass type horse hays have a lower nutritional value than legumes, but are considered ‘safe’ hays, because it is harder for a horse to over eat or have a reaction to grass hay. An additional benefit to grass hay is that is easier on the kidney’s due to it’s lower protein content and it tends to have finer stems, making it easier to chew and digest…..nice for senior horses.

Cereal grain hay, is hay that has not had the grain harvested. These hays have about the same nutritional value of grass hays. But be aware, if cereal grain hay is harvested in such a way as to loose the seed heads, the remaining straw is of poor nutritional value and only suitable for bedding. Cereal grain hays have a higher concentration of nitrates. Not good for horses with laminitis.

Quality Hay for Horses is King

See the Difference?

Notice the difference in these two cuts of alfalfa hay. One cut has a much finer stem than the other.

How to grass feed a horse

The quality of horse hay varies greatly depending on a variety of factors. When it is harvested, how it is harvested and whether the cut is made late or early in the season. Geography and soil quality play a role as well. Many parts of the U.S. are low in selenium and produce low selenium content hay. See selenium deficiency to learn more.

Look for hay that is bright green in color, soft and pliable, fine stemmed and harvested before the plant reaches full maturity. The longer the hay is stored and the more yellow it becomes, the more it looses its nutritional value, especially essential minerals for horses.

Avoid horse hay that shows any sign of mold or musty smell. These have been known to cause coughing, heaves and emphysema. Avoid dusty or dirty hay. This can happen with hay that has been cut too low. The dirt piles from gofer holes and uneven ground can literally get processed right up into the hay bales. Not good.

Try to limit sand ingestion by not feeding your horse directly off the ground. Rubber mats or even carpeting placed on the ground can act as a sand barrier. Horses tend to throw their hay around as they rummage for the good bits, so you’ll need a good 8’ by 8’ of ground cover for your horses feeding area.

A high quality cereal grain hay, like oat hay, is preferable to a poor quality alfalfa. Use your good judgment when purchasing hay for horses. You may find that the quality of hay available at your local feed store changes during the seasons. Choose the best you can.

If you find yourself buying a different kind of hay than your horses are currently eating, be sure and introduce the new feed slowly over the course of a week or two. This will reduce the chances of horse colic or founder.

Simply 100% naturally grown British meadow grass, with no added sugar. High in fibre and suitable for horses, ponies and other animals.

£ 14.39 + delivery from £4.98

Need Advice? Email, chat or call our feedline phone 01621 841 188

Key Features

Simply 100% naturally grown British meadow grass, with no added sugar. Dengie Pure Grass Pellets are high in fibre and suitable for horses, ponies and other animals.

  • Tasty pure grass, highly digestible fibre which is very sympathetic to the digestive system
  • Ideal for animals with dental issues, such as diastemas when fed soaked
  • Pure Grass Pellets can be fed as a partial or total hay or grazing replacer
  • Naturally sweet – no added sugar and naturally low in starch
  • Please soak prior to feeding to reduce the risk of choke – as a pure fibre pellet, at times the Pure Grass Pellets can absorb lots of water and swell
  • Can be fed dry when fed alongside another chopped fibre or in snack balls so that only small amounts are consumed at one time
  • Free from artificial flavours, preservatives, molasses, straw, binders and fillers
  • Pure Grass Pellets are suitable for a wide range of species such as horses, ponies, cattle, sheep, goats and camelids

Ingredients & Nutritional Information

Typical analysis (%) ‘as fed’

Digestible Energy 10MJ/kg
Protein 18
Oil 3
Ash (mineral) 10
Fibre 20
Naturally Occurring Sugar 12
Starch 2

How to grass feed a horse


Grass Pellets comes in a 20kg bag Please soak prior to feeding to reduce the risk of choke – as a pure fibre pellet, at times the Grass Pellets can absorb lots of water and swell.

Feeding Guidelines

Grass Pellets can be fed dry in snack balls or as healthy treats. If feeding Grass Pellets on their own in larger quantities, please soak prior to feeding.

How to soak Grass Pellets

To reduce the risk of choke when fed as the sole feed without chopped fibre alongside and for those that struggle to chew please soak Grass Pellets prior to feeding – as a pure fibre pellet, at times the Grass Pellets can absorb lots of water and swell.

To soak our grass pellets for horses, you can use hot or cold water. Soaking time can vary according to the density of the pellets, but as a guide we would expect a 2 hour cold soak or 15 minute hot soak time. Equally the grass pellets can be left through the day or night to soak. We would suggest a 1 part product to 4 parts water soaking ratio to produce a mash, but you can add more or less water according to your horse’s preference.

One scoop of Grass Pellets = 1.6Kg

Case Studies

Easy to Chew Soaked Mash

Miranda Gray has had her 41 year old Thoroughbred x ‘Billy’ for 34 years. He now has very few teeth left and those that he does have are very worn, meaning he struggles to chew most things including grass.
Read the case study

I feed Dengie to all 13 of my ROR/TB horses with great results

My yard of horses all look great and have a brilliant shine on the coats in summer and winter. Since being on a fibre diet their performance has improved dramatically, and they are just as keen to get back out competing as I am.
Read the case study

Customer Reviews


Jacqueline Sandford – 6th January 2019

I have been using Grass Pellets all winter, as they were recommended to me by my supplier and I am really pleased with them. I have a 29yr mare who has limited teeth left and who looked like a coat rack at one point last winter, so I wanted something that would feed her up and keep the weight on and this is working a treat. I mix it with a scoop of chaff and feed it twice a day and she is looking well. I would highly recommend it.

Nicola Linforth – 12th September 2019

I have been using Grass Pellets for my 7 year old mare who has just had a cheek tooth out. She wouldnt eat any other feed to take her antibiotics but would with these. Really easy to soak with hot water.

Nicola Linforth – 12th September 2019

These are a life saver! I have been using Grass Pellets for my 7 year old mare who has just had a cheek tooth out. She wouldnt eat any other feed to take her antibiotics but would with these. Really easy to soak with hot water.

Rachel Lulham – 2nd November 2021

Recommended these when my pony with IBD stopped eating her feed, and she has everything run by specialist vet and can only have Timothy grass. she adores these. They smell lovely too, now my boy went off purabeet, and would not eat his feed and supplements till I put this back in his feed.

Flakes of hay: How much to feed your horse?

Posted on Jun 10, 2021

How Do Horses Digestion Systems Work?

Horses are non-ruminant herbivores, meaning they have a single stomach digestive system, and can eat and How to grass feed a horseutilize roughages much like cattle or sheep. However, unlike cattle, horses have stomachs that function similarly to human stomachs, where feed particles are mixed with pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down proteins, and hydrochloric acid, which breaks down solid particles. But, a horse stomach is quite small in comparison to the stomachs of other livestock animals and can only contain about 10% of the total capacity of the digestive system.

Because of the limited capacity of its stomach, a horse should be fed small amounts of feed often. Unfortunately, domesticated horses are fed once or twice a day and if stabled, spend much of the day not eating. Because hydrochloric acid is produced continuously in the horse stomach, it can accumulate in an empty stomach, irritate the stomach lining, and eventually cause ulcers.

After feed leaves the stomach, it passes into the small intestine where much of the soluble carbohydrates, or sugars, and protein from grain are digested and absorbed. From there, feed passes to the large intestine, which is made up of the cecum and large colon. The cecum is a blind sac that is essentially a 10-gallon fermentation vat containing millions of microorganisms that break down the fibrous components of roughages. Microbial breakdown of fibrous particles continues in the large colon where water is also absorbed and fecal balls are formed and passed through the rectum.

Passage rate through the small intestine to the large intestine is quite rapid and if a large amount of grain, which contains high levels of soluble sugars, is ingested, the capacity of the small intestine is quickly overwhelmed. When high levels of soluble carbohydrates reach the large intestine, they are rapidly fermented, resulting in overproduction of gas and lactic acid, which can lead to colic and laminitis, respectively.

How Much and How Often Horses Should Eat

So, in order to maximize digestive efficiency and prevent digestive upset a horse should be fed several small meals throughout the day. But, do you know how much your horse is supposed to eat every day? The answer to this question depends on the physiological status of the animal (if it is growing, pregnant, or lactating) and on the work level of the horse.

However, let’s consider the typical pleasure horse that works 1 – 3 hours a week. The daily dry matter intake of an adult horse performing light work should be about 1.8% of its body weight each day. At least 65% of this amount should be forage.

In other words, a 1,000 lb horse should be fed 18 pounds of dry matter each day. Dry matter (DM) is the amount of feed that does not contain moisture; the DM content of hay is considerably higher than fresh grass. Note: the hay analysis should show the DM content of your forage. If you are feeding 100% hay and your hay contains 90% DM (or 10% moisture), your 1,000 lb horse should be fed 20 pounds of hay (18 lb DM/0.9) straight from the bale each day.

How to Properly Measure Hay

Weighing hay is the most effective way to measure the correct amount. However, more than 85% of horse owners who completed a survey published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (1) reportedly measured the amount of hay fed by flakes. Flakes of hay vary widely in weight, depending on forage type, size and tightness of bales; therefore, measuring hay by this method can result in misrepresentation of forage amount. The same can be said for measuring concentrates. A coffee can or a scoop of grain is an arbitrary amount. A scale with a capacity of at least 10 pounds is a must in all horse barns! You can certainly measure feed quantities by flakes of hay or coffee cans of grain after you determine how much each of those units actually weighs.

In summary, in order to maximize feed utilization efficiency and avoid digestive upsets, a horse should be fed an accurately weighed amount of feed based on its size, physiological status and work load. Ideally, this amount should be fed in small meals at frequent intervals throughout the day.

What method do you use to monitor your horse’s daily intake? Have you found a good hay scale? Tell us about it in the comments section!


Description of equine digestive system was adapted in large part from:
Parker, R. 2003. Equine Science, 2 nd Edition. Delmar Learning, Clifton Park, NY.

Alexa, play “With a little help from my friends” by The Beatles. It’s the perfect soundtrack we need for this viral TikTok video posted by @longfieldequestrain that has over 1.7 million views and 232.5K likes. The clip reminds us that sometimes to get by, we need a little help from our friends.

Two horses are outside grazing. But one horse is actually wearing a grazing muzzle, which is used to cut down on the amount a horse can eat. He clearly wasn’t a fan of being restricted on how much he can eat. We don’t blame him, we’d hate it, too! He immediately knows he needs assistance. Watch what he does to enlist his friend to help him out, and just wait until you see how that horse reacts.

WOW! How in the heck did that horse know what the other one wanted?! It must’ve been in the other horse’s hooves before. LOL! If it wasn’t for this horse, he wouldn’t have been able to get by with some extra grassy snacks.

We’re laughing at the fact the horse who needed help didn’t stand still. If he just patiently waited while the other horse worked on getting the muzzle off, he could have been eating sooner. “The tall one was like. “Jeezus, I can’t grab it if you don’t stop moving!!’” wrote @Krista Kraft. Sounds like a little kid impatient with getting his popsicle opened! “He is like, ‘Seriously the things I do for you hold still’ 🤣,” commented @Lady T. Ha, he can’t hold still, he’s starving! @Paigeriffix added, “He’s like, ‘hold still I’m TRYING to help you!’”

Spring is here, and for some lucky horses this means spending time in a pasture eating grass. It is tempting to turn horses out into spring pastures at the first sight of green grass, especially after a long winter. However, spring grazing should be introduced slowly. How do you go about introducing horses to spring grass?

A good strategy is to wait until the grass in the pastures reach 6 to 8” (15 to 20 cm) in height. The first time out on grass should be just 15 minutes! Yes, that’s right, just 15 minutes.

1. What fraction of an hour is 15 minutes?

After the first day, increase the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of grazing time is reached.

Imagine you’re responsible for turning out the horses at a barn.

Spring has arrived and it’s time to schedule the horses’ transition from the winter time hay only diet to one that includes grazing.

How to grass feed a horse

2. How many days of turnout are required for the horses to be out for one hour?

3. After the first week, how many minutes will the horses be out on pasture?

4. How many hours will the horses be allowed to graze after 12 days?

5. How many days will it take to work up to 5 hours of grazing?

As well as the time restrictions, it is also a good practice to feed horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing days of the year. This will slow down their eating of the pasture grasses.

How to grass feed a horseOnce 5 hours is reached, the horses are safe to stay out as long as you like.

Why is it important to go slow when introducing horses to spring grass?

For one thing, green pastures are not natural to a horse! Think of horses in the wild, and the rangeland they graze over, it’s often pretty sparse, with horses walking miles each day to find enough to eat.

Another reason is that whenever a horse’s diet is changed, the change should be gradual. Turning a horse out on a lush green pasture after a hay only diet, could cause serious harm. Have you heard of the equine ailment called laminitis or founder?

Horse Talk – laminitis (founder): a common cause of lameness and disability in horses and ponies. It is a painful disease affecting the horse’s feet. One of the known causes is access to excessive amounts of pasture, hay, grain or pelleted feed.

As wonderful as it is for horses, not every horse owner has access to grass pastures. How many horse owners have access to spring and summer pastures and how do they manage them? In an effort to learn more about how horse owners manage this part of their horses’ lives, researchers polled members of the equestrian community. Here’s what they found.

How to grass feed a horse

Click to enlarge

6. What kind of graph is this?

Posted by Liv Gude on Apr 03, 2018

Of course he can! Just like he can eat too many carrots, too much hay, too much feed, a horse can certainly eat too much grass. When left to his own devices, I’m not sure any horse will ever push away the plate and excuse himself. It’s very likely that he will become a fat horse! Keeping this in mind, when it comes to pasture grazing, horses tend to go all out. For many horses, there are some extenuating circumstances to keep in mind as you decide how much time to allow your horse to be on grass.

What is your horse’s weight like? Weight gain from pasture and your horse’s overall diet isn’t good for him on many levels. As joints and soft tissues of the legs are stressed, he becomes more likely to overheat, and metabolic disorders are directly related to overweight horses. Insulin Resistance and Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing’s disease, are two of the common metabolic problems in horses that increase their risk for laminitis and founder.

How much grass does a horse eat per day?

A horse on grass pasture can consume 25 lbs of forage a day! This is the high end of the recommended forage intake of 1-3% of body weight. If your horse also receives supplemental hay and feed, his caloric intake will definitely cause him to pack on the pounds.

What is your horse’s overall health? Older horses and horses with a history of laminitis and metabolic disorders need low non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) value diets. Horses on grass are exposed to varying levels of NSC, and for a compromised horse, those values can trigger laminitis.

How to grass feed a horse
A horse on grass pasture can eat 25 pounds of grass a day!
(Photo by Tobi from Pexels)

What’s your horse’s exercise level? The retired horse, the weekend warrior horse, the trail horse and other low-exercise horses can gain weight quickly if they are allowed to graze unchecked. More active and athletic horses can use the extra calories.

What’s your horse’s routine like? Horses are smart, and they know how much time they get to spend on their patch of grass! Researchers found that ponies learned how long they would be allowed to stay on pasture, and could consume a day’s worth of grass in a few hours.

Ways to keep your horse from overgrazing

When it comes to horses and pasture grazing, create a plan for each horse. Gradually increase or decrease the amount of time they spend on pasture. This is important to allow your horse to become adjusted to his diet. Time of year and season are factors that are just as significant, since spring pastures and fall pastures typically have elevated NSC values, so adjusting your horse’s turn-out routine during those times is critical.

For horses that go up in weight at the mere mention of fresh grass, use a grazing muzzle to limit their caloric intake. Muzzles are also suggested for horses with metabolic disorders. There is no reason to risk laminitis if you don’t have to.

Finally, do make time to talk with your veterinarian about your horse’s weight, his metabolic status, and how much pasture time is appropriate for him.There is a lot to learn about laminitis, horse health, and how to keep your friend from becoming a round, fat horse. We will cover more in future articles. Happy grazing!

Liv Gude is the founder of Pro Equine Grooms, a community devoted to the best in horse care.

Just about every horse owner, especially those with older horses, has wondered, how quickly can a horse founder on grass? A founder can be a serious illness, but it is preventable and treatable. Founder, also known as laminitis, can occur in horses of any age, though it is more likely to happen in older horses.

One of the most common ways for horses to founder is by overeating grass. Though the grass is an important part of a horse’s diet, too much can cause serious issues. Horses eating fresh spring grass after a long winter are more prone to founder.

Table of Contents

How Quickly Can a Horse Founder on Grass?

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Founder is the result of the destruction of the blood-rich laminae that connects the hoof to the soft tissue of the foot on the horse. It most commonly occurs on horses that are over ten, easy keepers, and struggle with insulin resistance. Horses that suffer from Equine Metabolic Disease are predisposed to grass founder.

Grass founder occurs most often in the spring, as that is when the grass is growing the fastest and producing high levels of carbohydrates in the form of fructans. When high levels of carbohydrates are consumed, prolonged insulin occurs which leads to insulin dis-regulation. In return, this can cause founder to occur.

Symptoms of Founder

One of the most common symptoms of founder is heat in the hoof. Horses will often shift their weight while standing in order to avoid standing on their lame hoof. In addition, horses may also be reluctant to work, as they have pain in their hoof.

Horses may also have an increased digital pulse and an increased heart rate. Their stride may appear shortened and they may lift their hoof weirdly.

The Rate at which Grass Can Cause Horses to Founder

Within just a few hours of eating fresh, spring grass, a horse can founder. For horses that are already prone to founder, their time on grass should be limited, especially at the beginning of spring. Limiting a horse to just a partial day of pasture, only a few hours, will help prevent them from founder.

In addition to older horses, ponies and overweight horses are more prone to foundering. They should not be kept in a grass pasture 24/7, as this can easily lead to founder.

Ways to Prevent Founder

You can turn your horse out on a dry lot to prevent them from foundering. Grazing muzzles can also help prevent a horse from eating too much fresh grass. Be certain to monitor your horse for any signs of founder while they are turned out on a grass pasture during the beginning of the year.

Before turning your horse out to pasture, allow them to fill up on hay. Make sure your horse exercises regularly in order to keep them at a healthy weight. Slowly introduce your horse to pastures with fresh spring grass, as this can let them eat more over time until the chances of founder are reduced.

Grass Founder in Horses

Grass founder commonly occurs on fresh grass and can cause serious issues for horses if it is not treated in time. However, limiting your horse turnout on grass at the beginning of spring to just a few hours can prevent founder from happening.

This Minecraft tutorial explains how to feed a horse with screenshots and step-by-step instructions.

In Minecraft, you can restore a horse’s health by feeding it and you can also speed up how fast a baby horse grows by feeding it food. Let’s explore how to feed a horse.

Foods to Feed a Horse

In Minecraft, these are the foods that you can feed a horse:

Item Name Health Restored Speeds Growth By
Sugar 1 health point
( x 0.5)
30 seconds
Wheat 2 health points
( x 1)
20 seconds
Apple 3 health points
( x 1.5)
1 minute
Golden Carrot 4 health points
( x 2)
1 minute
Golden Apple 10 health points
( x 5)
4 minutes
Enchanted Golden Apple 10 health points
( x 5)
4 minutes
Hay Bale 20 health points
( x 10)
3 minutes

Note: The chart above shows the amount of health restored for each type of food eaten by a horse. It also displays the amount of time that it speeds up growth if you feed the food to a baby horse (foal).

Steps to Feed a Horse

1. Find a Horse

Once you have one of these foods, you will need to find a horse to feed.

Horses are usually found in the Plains biome.

If you are having trouble finding a horse, you can summon a horse using a cheat or you can use a spawn egg.

2. Use the Food

Next, with the food selected in your hot bar, you will need to feed it to the horse. In this example, we are going to feed the horse wheat.

TIP #1: To feed a horse, you must have the food item selected in your hot bar and the horse must “be hungry”. Otherwise, the horse will not eat.

Tip #2: If you are not holding a food item and you follow the instructions below, you may end up mounting the horse instead. So be sure to hold the food first before trying the instructions.

The game control to use/feed the wheat to the horse depends on the version of Minecraft:

  • For Java Edition (PC/Mac), right click on the horse.
  • For Pocket Edition (PE), you move your pointer over the horse and press the Feed button.
  • For Xbox 360 and Xbox One, press the LT button on the Xbox controller.
  • For PS3 and PS4, press the L2 button on the PS controller.
  • For Wii U, press the ZL button on the gamepad.
  • For Nintendo Switch, press the ZL button on the controller.
  • For Windows 10 Edition, right click on the horse.
  • For Education Edition, right click on the horse.

Once you have fed the horse, the wheat will disappear from your hot bar.

The horse’s health will be increased and if the horse was a baby, it will grow into an adult in less time than normal.

Congratulations, you just learned how to feed a horse in Minecraft!

Things to Do with Horses

Here are some activities that you can do with horses in Minecraft:

Alexa, play “With a little help from my friends” by The Beatles. It’s the perfect soundtrack we need for this viral TikTok video posted by @longfieldequestrain that has over 1.7 million views and 232.5K likes. The clip reminds us that sometimes to get by, we need a little help from our friends.

Two horses are outside grazing. But one horse is actually wearing a grazing muzzle, which is used to cut down on the amount a horse can eat. He clearly wasn’t a fan of being restricted on how much he can eat. We don’t blame him, we’d hate it, too! He immediately knows he needs assistance. Watch what he does to enlist his friend to help him out, and just wait until you see how that horse reacts.

WOW! How in the heck did that horse know what the other one wanted?! It must’ve been in the other horse’s hooves before. LOL! If it wasn’t for this horse, he wouldn’t have been able to get by with some extra grassy snacks.

We’re laughing at the fact the horse who needed help didn’t stand still. If he just patiently waited while the other horse worked on getting the muzzle off, he could have been eating sooner. “The tall one was like. “Jeezus, I can’t grab it if you don’t stop moving!!’” wrote @Krista Kraft. Sounds like a little kid impatient with getting his popsicle opened! “He is like, ‘Seriously the things I do for you hold still’ 🤣,” commented @Lady T. Ha, he can’t hold still, he’s starving! @Paigeriffix added, “He’s like, ‘hold still I’m TRYING to help you!’”

According to the National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses, most horses not participating in heavy work can maintain a healthy body condition score by being offered forage as the only source of calories, in addition to access to fresh water and a salt supplement. Here are some tricks for managing horses without supplemental calorie sources.

1. Weigh your horse’s hay based on your horse’s target body weight and ensure your horse is receiving 1.5–2.5% of its body weight in forage each day.

2. Have a veterinarian or equine dentist routinely examine and treat your horse’s teeth. Don’t assume the horse has a functional mouth if you simply pull back his lips and find a full set of incisors. These front teeth are usually the last ones lost by aged horses. The molars you don’t see grind forage. If your horse is not able to chew its hay sufficiently, consider cut hay as an alternative.

3. If the horse is overweight, restrict grazing and offer mature hay with a lower content of easily digestible sugars and higher indigestible fiber. However, be sure that the horse will actually eat it and not just use it for bedding.

4. Feed off the ground to minimize the chance of sand colic in areas where this is a concern. Use nets, feed bunks, feed racks, or place the hay on rubber stall mats.

5. Hay shortage in your area? Consider hay cubes, alfalfa (lucerne) or grass hay pellets, chopped forages, shredded beet pulp, or soy hull pellets.

6. Invest in a few hay nets. This will elevate the hay off the floor, away from sand and bedding dust, make it easy to weigh and preload hay to quickly feed hungry horses on busy days, and potentially slow consumption.

7. Soak or steam hay to reduce dust if your horse has a respiratory ailment or to reduce the water-soluble sugar content for horses with endocrine abnormalities or chronic laminitis.

In the case of harder keepers, Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research, believes a forage-only diet can be challenging.

“Making sure the horse has the best-quality forage will go a long way to increasing the caloric intake. Abundant grass and legumes (like clover) in the pasture and high-quality alfalfa, grass, or mixed hay with a high leaf-to-stem ratio are excellent sources of forage calories. Supplementing with the forage alternatives, such as hay cubes and pellets or beet pulp, will further increase the calories the horse derives from the forages.”

Crandell also warns, “An all-forage diet does not work for every horse in every circumstance. There are definitely situations where a more robust diet may be indicated.”

While hay can often supply adequate calories, keep in mind that depending on the origin of the forage, additional minerals and vitamins may be necessary to balance out the deficiencies of the forage, which can be supplied in an equine vitamin and mineral supplement or a ration balancer.

Regardless of their size, all equines have the same basic nutritional needs. Each animal must consume enough water, forage, and (possibly) grain to meet the requirements of growth, tissue repair, reproduction, exercise, and maintenance of all body systems. Factors such as body size, age, breed, work, climate, health status, and metabolism affect the type and amount of hay, pasture, and grain a particular horse should be given. Because very little research has been done on the specific requirements of Miniature horses, feeding recommendations must be based on standards for other equines tempered by experience with Minis and careful observation of individual animals.

Deciding how much hay, grass, and grain to provide a mature Miniature horse involves, as a first step, an estimation of body condition. This is most easily determined not by looking at the belly, which may appear large even in an underweight horse, but by observing the ribs, spine, and fat deposits. For a horse in moderate condition, the ribs should be easily felt with moderate pressure, but should not be seen. The back should be flat, with the spine neither sticking up nor paralleled by raised ridges of flesh, and a light layer of fat should provide a smooth appearance to the shoulders, neck, and withers. If the ribs are easily seen and the bones of the spine stand up from the body, the animal is in thin or poor condition, and the aim of a feeding program should be to allow this horse to pick up some additional weight. At the other end of the condition scale is an animal with spongy fat deposits on the shoulders, croup, ribs, and thighs.

These horses usually have rounded ridges of flesh along their backs so that the spine appears to lie in a depression, and ribs cannot be felt even with firm pressure. Because colic, laminitis, and bone and joint problems commonly affect overweight horses, the owner’s goal should be to reduce the body weight of animals in this condition. Miniature horses tend to be easy keepers, meaning that they seem to maintain or increase their weight on limited forage and little or no grain. The challenge for the owner is to provide complete nutrition while keeping the horse within an acceptable weight range.

After looking at body condition, the next step in working out a feeding program is finding out how much the animal weighs. In a study conducted by Kentucky Equine Research (KER), 49 Miniature horses (mares, geldings, and stallions between the ages of 1 and 12) had an average weight of 213 pounds, and fewer than 15% of these animals weighed as much as 250 pounds. The study found that owners of Miniature horses commonly over- or underestimated the weight of their animals by up to 20%, an error that could lead not only to inaccurate feeding programs but also to possibly dangerous dewormer or drug dosages. If a scale is available, this is the most accurate way to determine weight. Because weight tapes designed for standard horses are not accurate for Minis, KER designed equations using measurements of girth, height, and length to yield a number very close to the Miniature’s correct weight.

To measure girth, place the tape just behind the front legs and over the withers. Pull the tape snug but not tight enough to depress the flesh. For height, stand the horse squarely on level ground or pavement and measure the vertical distance from the ground to the top of the withers. If there is a question as to the exact location of the withers, allow the horse to lower his head and neck as if to graze and measure to the highest point in front of the saddle area. The tape should be kept perpendicular to the ground, not laid against the horse. Length is measured from the middle of the horse’s chest, along the side, and around to a point under the center of the tail. Use the measurements (in inches) in one or more of the following equations:

1. (Girth x 9.36) + (length x 5.01) – 348.53 = body weight in pounds.

2. (Girth x 11.68) + (height x 2.85) – 357.26 = body weight in pounds.

3. (Girth x 13.18) – 326.07 = body weight in pounds.

After an owner has figured body condition and weight, the final step is to work out individual nutrition plans. Grazing is the natural feeding pattern of horses, and pasture or hay can often supply the majority of a horse’s nutritional requirement. As a general rule, a full-sized horse should be given hay or grass at a rate of about 1 to 1.5% of body weight per day. Scaling down for Miniatures would point to about 3.5 to 4 pounds of hay. Easy-keeping Miniatures may get along well on even smaller amounts of hay, and should never be given unlimited access to grass. If the horse gains weight, increase exercise and reduce intake. Use a grazing muzzle, drylot, or stall for part of the day, and consider changing to hay that provides fewer calories (grass instead of alfalfa or clover). For a horse that is too thin or is losing weight, gradually increase grazing time, or feed more and better hay.

Because of their extremely efficient metabolism, Miniatures do not need a lot of grain. Many Miniature owners, who measure feed by the cup or half-cup, would agree that a full-grown Mini’s grain ration should not exceed 1 pound per day, and as little as half a pound per day is often adequate. To help ensure adequate fortification at this low volume, owners may want to use a feed with a protein level of at least 14%. Protein levels of up to 16% may be required during periods of highest demand (breeding stallions, extremely heavy exercise).

Equine nutritionists suggest that a different way to approach grain feeding is to look at what a commercial feed actually provides. Protein, calories, and fortification (vitamins and minerals) are the dietary benefits of a grain ration. With the possible exceptions of lactating broodmares and very heavily worked animals, mature Miniature horses derive sufficient energy and protein from forage. To ensure sufficient intake of key vitamins and minerals without the danger of grain overload, a supplement such as All-Phase may offer a safe alternative to a textured or pelleted concentrate. Miniatures should be given about 1/4 the amount recommended for a mature horse, and caution should be exercised so as not to oversupplement.

Other supplements may be added to the diet if a horse has special requirements. Products to enhance hoof quality or prevent musculoskeletal problems can be fed to Miniature horses at a level based on body weight. Package directions are usually related to supplementing the diets of full-sized horses (1000-1200 pounds), and reductions can be made in proportion to a Miniature horse’s smaller size. Because oversupplementation has the potential of harming the horse, the diet should be evaluated carefully before additional nutrients are included.

Remember these points:

• Know the horse’s body condition and weight. Make feeding choices based on whether the horse should reduce, maintain, or increase weight.

• Monitor changes in weight and modify intakes accordingly.

• Base the diet on forage (grass or hay) and add grain and supplements only as necessary. Water and salt should always be available.

• Keep a regular schedule for dental examinations and deworming.

• Feed each horse as an individual, taking into account size, weight, state of growth, metabolism, and work. Based on body condition, feed a small horse proportionally less than a full-sized horse.

With a few simple measures, you can reduce your horse’s risk of developing laminitis, ulcers, colic and other ills—even as he enjoys the luscious new grass of the season.

Green is good! We all love the look of our lush spring pastures, and our horses certainly love to graze them. But unfortunately, that tender grass poses some unique risks to equine health.

Spring grass grows rapidly, containing a large proportion (up to 80% or more) of water. This grass is generally soft and easy to chew because the amount of indigestible fiber is less than in mature grass. There is so much liquid in new spring grass that it contains lower proportions of all the other components—fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, starch—compared to mature grass. This means that while a horse may ingest less starch per mouthful of spring grass (compared to summer or fall), because he finds it so tasty, he’s likely to eat more of it—and that’s where the trouble starts.

Virtually all horses are subject to some digestive upsets associated with lush spring pasture. The content of highly fermentable carbohydrates in lush pasture can be overwhelming to the digestive system. For overweight horses and ponies with insulin resistance and associated high levels of circulating pro-inflammatory agents produced by fat (equine metabolic syndrome), as well as those with known metabolic problems such as Cushing’s disease, grazing on lush pasture increases the risk of laminitis, colic and other health problems.

However, there are things you can do to reduce the potential problems associated with spring turnout and help your horse’s digestive system handle the spring grass that he so loves to graze:

  1. Continue to offer hay even when the grass is growing well. New grass contains a lot of water and little fiber, and horses may crave the fiber found in hay.
  2. Introduce your horse to lush spring grass gradually. To allow the digestive system to adapt, begin with short periods of grazing on lush grass and gradually increase time on pasture.
  3. Monitor your horse for signs of laminitis and other problems. Check frequently (several times a day) for signs such as warm hooves or walking as though his feet may be painful. Horses that have been grazing through the winter and early spring are at somewhat less risk than horses that have been confined to stalls and are suddenly turned out into lush fields. If grazing horses show signs of any of these problems or seem uncomfortable, remove them from the pasture and call a veterinarian.
  4. Use a grazing muzzle to restrict intake, and consider the use of a hindgut buffering product to neutralize lactic acid.

How to grass feed a horseProducts like EquiShure® from KER Targeted Nutrition can help maintain a normal pH in the horse’s hindgut when he overdoes it on rich pasture grasses. This particular formula supplies an encapsulated source of sodium bicarbonate to the cecum and colon, which then acts as a time-released buffer.

Hindgut problems can get serious. Overconsumption of high-starch concentrates or rich pasture grasses can make it impossible for the stomach and small intestine to sufficiently digest and absorb all that starch. When that happens, some of this starch moves into the hindgut (the cecum, large colon and small colon, where the breakdown of fiber normally occurs) without being adequately digested. This increases the production of lactic acid, causing a decrease in the pH. “Maintaining a good pH balance is crucial to a healthy digestive system and the microbiota that supports that system,” confirms Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. “When excessive amounts of starch or sugar end up in the hindgut of the horse, it will upset the normal pH, causing acidosis and affecting the health of the fiber-loving microbiota.”

As a result, your horse may appear “off his feed” or even colicky due to an inflamed and irritated intestinal lining. In the long term, he may experience a detrimental reduction of feed efficiency that could translate to poor performance. “To remedy a situation like this, a product that can help to normalize the pH is extremely helpful,” Crandell continues. “This is where something like a hindgut buffer would come in. Bicarbonate is an excellent acid buffer, but it needs to have a protective coating that will slow its release into the environment for it to be useful in the hindgut.”

So when you horse starts going for the green, make sure he stays as healthy as he is happy.

If you’re struggling to know how much to feed your horse, fear not! We’ve got the answers to some very common questions on that very subject right here.

Will grass provide your horse with everything he needs?

Unfortunately not! Grass may provide sufficient calories and even protein for horses at rest or in light work a large study has shown that UK grazing will not meet their mineral requirements. For example, grass only provides around half the quantity of zinc a horse needs every day and this can result in poor hoof health. Horses that maintain weight well on grazing alone don’t need lots of concentrate feed but they still need extra vitamins and minerals. To make sure your horse’s diet is balanced, consider feeding a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement.

How much hay or haylage should you feed?

Forage is an essential part of all horses and pony diets. Horses have evolved as trickle-feeders and feeding insufficient forage can result in problems such as stereotypic behaviours, gastric ulcers and/ or colic. Horses will eat between 2-2.5% of their bodyweight as dry forage per day. Depending on how much work you do with your horse some forage may be replaced by concentrate feed. However, if your horse needs to lose weight it may be necessary to restrict forage intake. We recommend a restriction of no less than 1.5% of body weight unless under veterinary supervision.

How much concentrate feed is safe to feed in one meal?

Your horse’s stomach is very small in comparison to the rest of the digestive system. As a result feeding large concentrate meals can increase the risk of problems such as colic. You should aim to feed no more than 500g/100 bodyweight per meal. For example a 500kg horse should have a maximum of 2.5kg of food per meal (this includes concentrates, chaff, sugar beet etc.).

Top meal size tip!

Aiming for smaller feeds more often, is much better for your horse’s digestive system and feeding a balancer which includes a probiotic can help the digestibility of fibre, meaning your horse will get twice as much out of the fibre in his diet. This will help him put on weight and condition without having to over-feed him.

Dr. Stephen Duren and Dr. Tania Cubitt, Performance Horse Nutrition and Standlee Premium Products Nutritional Consultants

During the winter season, temperatures typically fall below what is necessary for pasture grass to grow. Pastures become rapidly depleted of natural forage and horses must increasingly rely on their owners to provide them with a nutritionally adequate diet. To properly feed a horse during the winter months several key factors must be addressed. These factors are water, fiber and essential nutrients.

Water should always be the first consideration in the diet for any horse. Without adequate water intake horses will not survive. An adult horse (1000 lbs.) in a cool, comfortable environment that is not working or lactating requires a minimum of 7 – 10 gallons of fresh clean water per day. The amount of water required is closely related to the amount of feed eaten. Most horses will drink 1.5 quarts of water per pound of dry feed intake. If a horse were consuming 20 lbs. of dry hay per day, the horse would be expected to consume approximately 7.5 gallons of water per day. The water requirement is higher if the horse is in training, nursing a foal, growing, pregnant or in a hot/ humid environment. The best situation to ensure adequate water intake is to provide free access to fresh clean water.

Problems associated with water intake during the winter months usually revolve around inadequate intake. Water that has frozen or is near freezing will result in decreased intake. Similarly, horses that must eat snow, as their only water source, will not eat enough snow to completely satisfy their water requirement. This decreased water intake can result in digestive upset or “colic” that is associated with feed material becoming impacted (stuck) in the digestive system. Therefore, the water source should be free-flowing or heated to prevent freezing and guarantee adequate intake. When installing a heating device for water, be sure any electrical unit is properly grounded to prevent electrical shock of the horse. Horses are very sensitive to electrical shock and will quit drinking to avoid shock.

Adequate fiber intake is the next consideration in feeding horses during the winter season. It is recommended that horses receive a minimum of 1.5% of their body weight in dry forage per day. For a 1000 lb. horse, this equates to 15 lbs. of hay per day. Can horses consume more hay? Certainly, horses can consume up to 3% of the body weight per day in hay (30 lbs. for a 1000-lb. horse) if the hay is of good quality. The fiber obtained from hay is necessary to keep the digestive system of the horse functioning properly. Without this hay fiber, horses will seek out other sources of fiber including bedding and wood fences or trees to satisfy their needs. Adequate fiber from hay is even more critical during the winter months since it is the feed ingredient that keeps horses warm during cold weather. Digestion and fermentation of fiber (hay) produce heat that helps the horse maintain its body temperature during winter. Unlike hay, consumption of grain does not produce large amounts of body heat during digestion. Grain functions to keep horses warm by providing energy for muscle contraction that can be used to help the animal shiver. Therefore, the best way to keep horses warm during cold weather is to provide plenty of good quality hay.

Download the Nutritional Paper PDF

When environmental temperatures (including wind chill) drop below 45°F (referred to as the critical temperature), significant amounts of energy are used by the horse to maintain its internal body heat. For each 1°F decrease below the critical temperature, the horse requires a 1% increase in digestible energy to maintain a consistent body temperature. Wind chill, moisture, and coat thickness will affect the critical temperature. The horse’s thick winter coat has an insulating effect against cold and wind. If the coat becomes wet, the critical temperature will increase by 10 to 15°F.

Increase the forage content of the diet 24 hours prior to forecasted cold conditions. Strive to keep your horse in a good body condition prior to winter months as the extra body fat provides an additional insulating effect against wind and also serves as an energy reserve.

A frequent hay related problem with horses during the winter months is chronic weight loss. This can occur either by not feeding enough hay to the horse, or by feeding poor quality hay to the horse. In both cases the horse will have trouble getting enough calories from the hay to maintain body weight. In the case of not feeding enough hay, the simple remedy is to provide all the hay the horse will consume during the day. If the horse is being fed all the hay it will consume and weight loss is still a problem, better quality hay or forage should be substituted for all or part of the current hay source. Better quality hays are typically higher calorie hays such as alfalfa compared to grass hay. Other baled hay or forage substitutes, such as cubes or pellets can be fed to replace poor quality hay. Standlee Premium Products offers a wide variety of Alfalfa and Alfalfa mix products ranging from baled forage, to cubes, pellets and chopped forage. Also available are beet pulp shreds and pellets that increase the calorie content of the forage portion of the diet and are highly digestible.

Barley sprouts very well and has a good nutritional profile for equine. Protein levels are generally between 16% and 18%. Digestibility is high, as well as the moisture content. For high performance horses there are some that like to add a little sunflower seed for increased protein, but it’s generally not necessary.

Approximately 2% of body weight is a good starting point. If you have a 1,000lb horse, that’s 20lbs. Remember that fodder is not intended to be a complete feed. You will still need some dry roughage (a minimum of 1%) in your horse’s diet.

Now you know you need roughage, but what is best? Research has shown that fodder sprouts digest very quickly. As a result, hays that are high in fiber and slow to digest compliment the sprouts. By slowing down the digestion the horse can retain more of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes in the sprouts. This means that grain hays and grass hays will actually work better in a fodder diet than alfalfa.

Surely you’re thinking this lush green grass is going to cause colic. The key thing here is that it’s not a grass – yet. A sprout at 6 days is dramatically different from both dry grains and green grass. Grains are not in a form that can be easily digested. As grains sprout hydrolytic enzymes breakdown compounds into simpler, more digestible forms. What you end up with is an increase in available vitamins and minerals. It’s a high protein, high energy, digestible (over 70%), wet feed. Horses maintain better hydration during training, events, or racing. The digestibility means there’s not an excess of non-structural carbohydrates (i.e., NSC, sugars) to move on and ferment in the cecum. This fermenting could eventually increase acidity, kill good bacteria, and cause body-wide inflammation (particularly in the lamina of the feet = laminitis). Since the excess sugars are not present, fodder will not cause colic. If anything, it can actually help prevent it.

Wes Leckner and Tracy Underwood, co-owners of the Santa Rosa Equestrian Facility, board between 90 and 100 horses at their training facility in northern California. Tracy reports, “The health benefits of the fodder are amazing! We had Clair Thunes, a PhD in nutrition from UC Davis, do an in-depth analysis of our fodder. Basically, the fodder provides an energy dense, live feed source that has a consistent nutritional content in addition to greater amounts of lysine, vitamin E and omega -3 fatty acids than hay. Many benefits that we have observed but don’t necessarily appear in the written analysis include shinier coats and an improvement in attitude and energy, especially in the older ponies at our European Pony School. Our barn vet, John Kaufman, DVM, attributes this to the seniors (some lacking teeth) being able to eat, digest and therefore, get the nutritional benefit of the food…” In early July of 2015, a small sprouting system will be delivered to Colorado State University. They will be performing research on the effects during pre and post op equine surgeries. With the known health benefits, it will be interesting to see the recovery time. The university learned about sprouts through a local dude ranch using fodder. They could see improved health in the horses and asked what they were doing different.

There is some variance in the type of horse, activity level, etc, but this is a basic guideline for choosing a system based on the number of horses you have:

Nutrition : General Nutrition

Purina Animal Nutrition

For horses, miniature horses and ponies to perform their best, they need the correct nutritional building blocks.

Just like people, all equines need protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as energy (calories) to support maintenance, growth, reproduction and work.


In nature, horses spend most of their time eating – grazing grasses and other plants. When making feed choices, it’s important to start with the forage: pasture and/or hay. All equines need forage for calories and other nutrients, as well as fiber to help keep the digestive tract healthy. Insufficient fiber can lead to digestive problems such as colic.

Hay and pasture need to be high quality for horses. The equine digestive tract does not handle poor quality forage efficiently, and very poor-quality forage may increase the risk of digestive problems.
The daily amount of hay and/or pasture fed is also a consideration. Horses, minis and ponies need at least 1-1.5 pounds of hay or pasture (on dry matter basis) per 100 pounds of body weight every day.

For example: a 300-pound miniature horse needs at least 3-4.5 pounds of hay per day or 9-13.5 pounds of pasture (fresh grass is much higher in water content) per day.
How to grass feed a horse
It’s common for horse owners to feed more than the minimum amount of forage recommended. Feeding more forage is fine as long as the total ration is balanced to provide optimal amounts of nutrients to meet the animal’s needs, including calories, protein, vitamins and minerals.

When fed free choice, forage intake may greatly exceed the minimum recommended amount. In those situations, it’s important to make sure individual animals do not become overweight, and to provide an additional source of nutrients to compensate for nutrient deficiencies in the forages.

Horse Feed Nutrients

Mature equines can often maintain their body weight and condition on the calories provided by hay or pasture alone. However, there are some necessary nutrients commonly lacking in forages, including some minerals in fresh pasture, or amino acids, vitamins and minerals in hay. Additionally, growing horses, broodmares and working horses usually need an additional source of calories.

There are many feeds to choose from to meet these additional nutrient needs. Most commercial feeds are fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals to appropriately complement forage and meet nutritional requirements.

Commercial Horse Feeds

Commercial horse feeds are usually a sweet or “textured” feed or are pelleted. Sweet or textured feeds include a mixture of grains, some molasses and pellets containing vitamins and minerals.

Pelleted feeds include grains ground and mixed with other nutrient sources and ingredients and pressed into a pellet form. Corn, oats, wheat and wheat products and barley are common grains found in horse feeds, as well as some forages such as alfalfa and fiber sources including beet pulp.

When selecting a commercial feed, consider the needs of the animal. Some feeds are designed for performance, such as Ultium ® Competition, Omolene ® #200 and Omolene ® #500 horse feeds. Some feeds are formulated for growth and breeding, such as Ultium ® Growth and Omolene ® #300 horse feeds.

Feeds formulated for maintenance or horses in light-moderate work include Omolene ® #100 and Strategy ® Healthy Edge ® horse feeds. Older horses or seniors have their own formulations with Purina ® Equine Senior ® and Equine Senior ® Active. Some feeds, such as Strategy ® GX and Purina Miniature Horse & Pony feed, are formulated to support multiple lifestyles, including performance, growth and reproduction.

If your horse, mini or pony is an easy keeper or gains weight easily, it may be difficult to feed enough commercial fortified feed to provide adequate protein, vitamins and minerals without causing the horse to gain too much weight. In this instance, a concentrated feed or supplement may be best. These products, such as Purina Enrich Plus ® ration balancing feed, contain concentrated amounts of nutrients and are formulated to feed in smaller meals, providing the horse with the proper nutrition without unwanted weight gain.

For overweight equines, feeds such as WellSolve W/C ® are designed to help manage caloric intake and weight control. For some animals, using a grazing muzzle or eliminating pasture entirely and closely monitoring hay intake may be the only way to prevent obesity.

How Much to Feed Your Horse

Once you have chosen the feed and forage source, the next step is to decide how much to feed. The feed label will provide guidelines for the amount to feed (remember: any individual animal may require a bit more or less than the suggested feeding rate), but you’ll need to know how much your horse, mini or pony weighs.

If you have access to a livestock scale, then it is easy to determine the exact weight. If not, you can use a body weight tape to estimate how much he or she weighs. Check with your Purina feed dealer for a Purina horse weight tape.

Most people measure feed using some sort of scoop. However, feeding directions indicate feed should be measured in pounds. The same volume of different feeds will weigh different amounts, so it is important to weigh the amount of feed that your scoop holds.

A simple way to do this is to use a digital fishing scale. Just put your scoop of feed in a bag or bucket, and hang it on the scale. Be sure to subtract the weight of the empty bucket! You can also weigh the hay to determine how much hay your horse is getting fed.

Body Condition Scoring

To help determine if your horse is the appropriate weight for his or her size and frame, you can use the Body Condition Scoring system. Developed at Texas A&M University, the Body Condition Scoring system is an objective method to determine if your animal is thin, fat or just right.

The scale ranges from a score of 1 (poor or extremely thin) to 9 (extremely fat). In general, horses and ponies should be a body condition score 5 (moderate). Looking from the side, if you cannot see ribs but can feel the ribs easily under the skin, the horse is approximately a body condition score 5.

With good care and nutrition, along with proper management and veterinary care, your horse, pony or miniature horse should be ready for you to enjoy for years to come.

Every horse is unique and so is their nutrition. Finding the right horse feeding program is paramount to helping your horse perform and feel the best. Find the right feed for your horse with our Feed Finder Tool.

How to grass feed a horseWhen is a horse considered “aged” or a “senior” with respect to nutrition? At 15? At 20? Many nutritional studies conducted on older horses have arbitrarily used 20 years of age as the threshold for “aged” or “senior” The NRC 2007 suggests three ways in which “old age” can be defined, which are listed below.

  1. Chronologic – number of years from birth
  2. Physiologic – the decline in physiologic functions as the threshold for old age
  3. Demographic – reflects an age-group population within the whole horse population.

The best way to define this population of horses may be a combination of chronological age and physiological signs of aging. As horses age they go through several changes that affect how and what you should feed them. Some physical signs of aging are:

  1. Dental disease and/or loss of teeth can cause chewing to become difficult and even ineffective. Worn incisors will make it difficult for horses to graze. Worn or damaged molars cause difficulty grinding feed. Worn molars cannot chew hay and the horses have a difficult time swallowing and digesting the hay. Alternative forges like hay cubes and pellets can be fed to horses with poor teeth. Sugar beet pulp and soybean hulls can also be fed to increase fiber intake. Grains, if fed, should be well processed (extruded, pelleted, micronized or steam flaked).
  2. The hindgut loses some of its ability to ferment fiber. A reduction in fiber fermentation means that older horses receive less nutrients from forage resulting in higher quality forages being required. Alfalfa hay and good quality grass hays are preferable to stemmy and mature hays that have tougher fiber to ferment.
  3. The small intestine loses some function – Older horses find it harder to digest protein in the small intestine. In addition, some older horses with reduced liver and kidney function find it difficult to excrete waste products associated with eating too much protein. Therefore, the key to feeding older horses is to use high quality protein from sources like alfalfa, soybean meal and canola meal without oversupplying their requirements. Aged horses lose body condition and muscle along the topline due to less efficient processing of certain nutrients in the older horse, most notably protein. Commercial senior feeds has improved the amino acid balance to help reverse such changes.
  4. Older horses are prone to Cushing’s Syndrome. Cushing’s horses often lose muscle mass to a higher degree than a normal aging horse. Again, improving the amino acid balance (not just feeding MORE protein) can help reverse the loss of or maintain muscle mass.
  5. One of the most obvious changes in an older horse is loss of mobility. For these horses, maintaining them in pastures/paddocks where feed and water sources are reasonably close together will help so the old ones do not need to travel long distances. If the senior horse is maintained in a herd, they should be evaluated on a continuous basis because most will fall down the pecking order and are more easily bossed around. This results in the aged horse eating less feed.
  6. Loss of body score (body condition or body fat) is related to all of the above issues. Many older horses require more calories in the form of highly digestible fiber from sources like beet pulp, soy hulls and dehydrated alfalfa meal. In addition, dietary fat helps with weight loss.

How to grass feed a horseThe total diet, hay and grain combined (dry matter basis), should contain 12-14% high quality protein, 03. – 0.4% phosphorous, 0.6 – 0.8% calcium and added Vitamin C.

  • Aged horses that are healthy with a BCS of 5 to 7 require 1.5-2.0% of their BW DM/day of good quality grass or legume mix hay. Typically, no grain is required but if desired or needed, choose one with restricted starch/sugar and contains added fat (4-7%). In these horses, forage based pellets or cubes could replace 10 to 50% of the long stem/chopped forages.
  • Aged healthy, thin horses with a BCS

How to grass feed a horse

How to transition your horse to grass pasture!

If ever there was an article that had no easy answer, THIS IS IT. A horse plus pasture is such an individual program with many factors to consider, so I will absolutely preface this by saying a few things.

  • Talk to your veterinarian about transitioning to grass pasture. I have seen enough laminitis to know that grass pasture and laminitis are related. Finding out if your horse has a metabolic issue is critical BEFORE you let him eat all of the salad. Even if he has no outward signs of Cushing’s or Insulin Resistance.
  • Go slow and steady. Increasing the time allotted slowly over time is a good way to do things. Better for his digestion! Consider it similar to you starting out at the gym. Are you going to bench 300 on the first day? Nope – you need to work up to it.
  • When in doubt, use a muzzle! Even the picture-perfect healthy horse can benefit from a muzzle. Horses are known as eating geniuses that will scarf down all of the salad in a fixed amount to time. They KNOW how long their turnout is, and they can eat accordingly. Read this study about ponies and grazing here.

How to grass feed a horse

Horses quickly figure grazing muzzles out. This is the Greenguard Equine Muzzle.

Things to consider when transitioning your horse to grass.

  • Your vet is a great source of guidance when you consider the multitude of factors as you transition to grass.
  • What time of year is it? Laminitis tends to peak in spring and especially in the fall with pasture’s sugar fluctuations.

How to grass feed a horse

  • How metabolically healthy is your horse? Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance warrant limited turnouts on grass pasture or none at all. Also, something to consider….. the metabolically compromised horse can inflict a lot of potential damage in one hour without a muzzle. But a few hours with a muzzle and he might be fine.
  • How is the barn schedule? If the only option is he goes out for 8 hours, with no exceptions, you may want to adjust your schedule to allow a gradual build-up. Muzzles help a great deal also.
  • How long has it been since he last ate all of the salad? Horses that are removed from pasture for a period of time may still need acclimation. At my barn, the weather is a huge factor in how much we limit or allow grazing. My first winter there, the weather was so wet and frozen that the pastures were downright dangerous. So, the horses were in dry lots for six weeks. The first day back on grass was for one hour, muzzles on. From then on, an hour or so at a time with muzzles, or smaller increments without muzzles.
  • How much time should you give him daily to build up? Your Vet can best help you here. In the spring, it might be 10 minutes of that thick lush stuff, then a few days later, 20 minutes, gradually increasing by 10-minute increments. In less risky times, it might be an hour at a time over the course of a few weeks.
  • Pay attention to the horse that is out on pasture all of the time. Yes, he’s used to it, but as the spring and fall bring dangers, his routine may need to be shortened or modified to balance the increased risk.

How to grass feed a horse

Dry lots are fantastic, too.

  • Even the perfectly healthy, young, and fit horse can benefit from a muzzle. Muzzles are not cruel. They allow the horse to slow his eating roll, giving his GI system time to process the starches and sugars of grass over time. Part of the laminitis risk comes from how much a horse eats in what time period. For example – the horse that eats 15 lbs of grain during an escape mission, versus the horse that eats 15 pounds of grain over four meals in one day.
  • And to be perfectly frank here, we love to treat our horses with food. Many horses live happy and amazing lives without pasture, and many horses live happy and amazing lives without hay.

When getting your horse used to grass pasture, it’s definitely a case that warrants some individual attention and care. And when in doubt, perhaps go a bit slower and have your horse wear that grazing muzzle.

How to grass feed a horse

How to grass feed a horse

How to grass feed a horse

The best muzzle in the land – order one here! Also in raspberry and black colors.

Spring has finally sprung! Whilst horsemen and women have sworn by the benefits of ‘Dr Green’ for generations, it’s not without its pitfalls. Knowing the facts can help you decide on the most suitable management for your horse this spring.

How to grass feed a horse1. Calorie overload

Ponies have been seen to consume almost 5% of their bodyweight (dry matter) in grass per day which for a 500kg horse, would equate to a staggering 25kg. In spring, this could easily provide three times the published energy (calorie) requirement for horses and ponies in light work!

2. Water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) risks

Grass contains a combination of simple sugars (produced in daylight hours via photosynthesis) and fructan, the storage form of sugar found largely in the stem. High intakes of sugar and fructan, collectively referred to as ‘WSC’, can lead to colic, insulin dysregulation, laminitis and weight gain.

3. WSC levels are hard to predict!

Although always high in early spring, levels of WSC can fluctuate hour by hour making it hard to predict when it might be ‘safest’ to turn out. Sunlight, fertiliser application, temperature, soil fertility and grass species can all have an effect but in general, factors that encourage growth but limit photosynthesis will help to reduce WSC. For example, shaded pasture in combination with warm temperatures, sufficient soil moisture and appropriate fertiliser application.

4. Daily sugar intake

Grass can contain up to 15% simple sugars (dry matter) which means a 350kg pony could consume 2.6kg of simple sugars per day from grass alone, the majority of which is sucrose – the same sugar you put in your tea and the main form of sugar in molasses. However if you add fructan into mix, total WSC intake could rise to almost 6kg!

5. WSC levels may still be high at night!

Provided the weather is warm enough, fructan stored in the stem is used for growth overnight. This, in addition to the fact that grass can’t photosynthesise without sunlight, means that WSC levels will be lower at night. However in order for grass to grow, the soil temperature needs to be consistently above 5°C which means on chilly nights, WSC levels may still be high.

6. Beware of Jack Frost

Sunny frosty mornings are common at this time of year and present a hidden danger for laminitics. When it’s too cold for the grass to grow overnight, WSC levels remain high. When the sun comes out this is coupled with photosynthesis and further sugar production, resulting in high levels of WSC.

7. Turnout for short periods may be counterproductive

Although turning out for short periods may seem like a logical way of restricting grass intake, our four-legged friends can soon become wise to such a regime. In one study, ponies were seen to consume almost 1% of the bodyweight in only 3 hours at grass, despite being fed ad lib hay for the rest of the day. For horses and ponies on a strict weight loss diet, this could equate to two-thirds of their total daily forage allowance.

8. Do grazing muzzles really work?

Grazing muzzles have been shown to reduce intake by an average of 77% in ponies turned out for 3 hours, and reduce the rate of weight gain when worn for 10 out of 23 hours at pasture. However results vary between individuals and some cases, horses and ponies still gain weight when only wearing a muzzle for part of their time at pasture. Consider stabling or ‘non-grass’ turn out for the remainder of the day rather than allowing free access to grazing. Grazing muzzles may also lead to frustration so monitor your horse’s behaviour, weight and body condition score closely. Prolonged use of a muzzle may also cause the horse’s teeth to wear unevenly so ensure they are checked regularly by a vet or equine dental technician.

9. Complete removal from grazing

Rapid growth makes spring a particularly high risk period for laminitics and for very susceptible horses and ponies, complete removal from grazing may be the only option. In these cases grazing should ideally be replaced with a low WSC hay or an appropriate hay replacer.

For advice on managing your horse’s grass intake contact the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 22 66 26.

How to grass feed a horse

Luxurious spring grass is nature’s way of restocking important nutrients after a horse has survived a long, hard winter. Strong re-growth of grass coincides with the natural foaling season, providing mares with the high levels of protein and calories they need to support milk production. The effects of what amounts to nature’s perfect food can be seen in all horses as a dazzling coat in the post-shedding season months.

Feral vs. Domestic
While this scenario sounds great so far, there are some important differences between the natural, feral horse and our domesticated horses. Feral horse bands graze over extensive ranges, often covering several hundred miles. In their natural habitats, grasses don’t explode into dense growths that will allow them to virtually stand still and get all they need to eat. They have to keep moving to find food. The feral horse also comes out of winter in a very lean condition. Contrast this to a domesticated horse that has been worked less over the winter, may already be a bit overweight, and is dining on seeded and fertilized pastures designed to support one horse on as small an area of land as an acre.

Grass Composition
The composition of young growths of grass is very different from later stages of growth. As the grass awakens from its dormant state, carbohydrates stored in the base of the plant are mobilized up into the growing blades as simple sugars. Photosynthesis-the process where plants make sugars from carbon dioxide under the influence of sunlight-takes over in providing sugar as a fuel for the growing grass. Emphasis switches from storing carbohydrates to using them to support growth. Protein levels in young growths of grass are extremely high, often 20% or higher. These grasses are also more digestible in the small intestine of the horse and more easily fermented in the large bowel because of a lower content of complex fiber than in later growth stages.

Common Problems
The combination of higher body weight going into spring, less exercise, dense growths of grass and high nutrient availability in the grasses is what can lead to problems for some domesticated horses with unlimited access to spring pastures. The three most common problems are obesity, intestinal upset, and a tendency to develop insulin resistance and/or laminitis. Here’s more information on each of these risks.

Obesity. Obesity is a risk for any horse on spring pastures. We are far too accustomed to seeing overweight horses and thinking this is normal. It’s very easy for a horse to slip into dangerous obesity on spring pastures. Obesity significantly increases the strain on the horse’s feet, joints, and heart. It leads to easy fatigue, lethargy, increased risk of overheating, and-in some individuals-may cause or worsen metabolic abnormalities (see below). The problem is easily prevented by restricting time on pasture or using a grazing muzzle.

Intestinal upset. Young growths of grass are rich in simple sugars, protein, and other rapidly fermentable carbohydrates and low in slowly fermented fibers compared to the hays your horse was accustomed to eating over the winter months. This extreme change can easily upset the populations of microorganisms in the intestinal tract, especially the large bowel.

The earliest sign that your horse may be getting too much green grass and is headed for intestinal upset is softening of the manure. More serious upset includes bloating, worsening diarrhea, and even colic. In the worst-case scenario, large amounts of rapidly fermented sugars can cause sufficient acidity in the large bowel to damage the wall, allowing bacterial products to penetrate into the bloodstream in sufficient amounts to cause laminitis. However, most cases of pasture-related laminitis can be tied to insulin resistance (see below).

Preventing GI problems requires the same measures as for obesity. Be alert to manure changes and either restrict pasture time or use a grazing muzzle. Haying horses when they are off pasture, and allowing access to hay when on young growths, will keep more fibrous materials in the intestinal tract and help buffer against gut changes. You can also consider providing a Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast-based probiotic to help your horse deal with higher simple carbohydrate levels.

Body Condition Scoring

Body condition scoring is a technique used by veterinarians for assessing the level of fatness. For ideal health, your horse should be maintained as a body condition score of 5, which is defined by the Henneke system as: “Neck blends smoothly into the body; withers are rounded over the spine; shoulder blends smoothly into the body; ribs cannot be easily seen but can be felt; back is level without a groove along the spine; small amount of soft fat around the tailhead.”

You can find a chart describing the Henneke system (developed by Don Henneke, PhD) by searching “Henneke equine body condition scoring” in any search engine.

Insulin resistance and laminitis. While obesity and intestinal upset are serious problems, laminitis is by far the most dangerous potential consequence of turnout on spring pastures in terms of pain and potential long-term consequences.

In 2006, researchers from the Virginia Polytechnical Institute published their findings on a field study of 160 mixed-breed ponies maintained on pasture (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 228, No.10, May 15, 2006). They monitored the blood glucose, insulin, triglyceride, and cortisol levels of the ponies, as well as the composition of the pasture grasses. They compared the blood results from ponies with no history of laminitis versus those who had been laminitic in the past or became laminitic during the study time period from March to May.

Prior to this study, the same research group had studied a variety of breeds, including full-size horses, using more sophisticated intravenous testing for insulin sensitivity and had developed a set of equations called “proxies” that could predict the results of the more sophisticated and time consuming intravenous tests using the more easily obtained single tests of glucose and insulin. These proxies are capable of predicting insulin resistance and danger of high simple carbohydrate intakes with an accuracy of approximately 80%. The equations and normal results are presented in the table below.

They found that the animals with test results outside the normal values in the table were at high risk of laminitis. Specifically, if a total of three values from the tests and/or a triglyceride level higher than 57 mg/dL (applies to ponies only) or a body condition score greater than 6 occurred, the pony was at high risk. A prior history of laminitis while on pasture is also a red-flag warning that exposure should be severely restricted.

Better yet, don’t take any chances. Keep those horses off spring grass!

Horses are grazing animals, and studies show that they perform best when they follow natural grazing patterns. The quantity of feed and time spent foraging for food are essential things to consider.

Harvested hays are the most substantial parts of horses’ diet. Choosing the suitable hay for a horse depends on where you live, your horse’s needs, and more. Unlike many other non-ruminant animals, horses have a relatively large gut and small intestine. Their digestive system makes them prefer continuous grazing to large meals once or twice daily.

Hay provides satisfaction and nutrients for horses. A horse must consume around two percent of its body mass daily to maintain digestive health and body weight. Different classes, workloads, and ages of horses require different nutrient levels from the hay they consume.

Grass Hay or Legume Hay? Which Is the Ideal Hay for Horses?

Many horse owners feed their horses with only a few hay types, depending on their location. However, horse owners feed their horses with a wide variety of hays in the US, including clover, coastal, orchard, rye, timothy, fescue, alfalfa, and many more.

For several horse owners, the ideal forage for horses is a combination of grass and legume hays. Each hay type is under one of these categories: grasses and legumes.

Legume Hay

Alfalfa is the most common choice of legumes. Other types are birdsfoot trefoil, red clover, and white clover.

Best Uses

It’s suitable for every horse that requires a nutrient and energy-dense hay, including growing foals, lactating mares, or horses that require high-calories content. Horses that do substantial work require legume hays, which satisfy their forage needs and provide energy and calories.


Legumes contain more calcium and protein than grass hay. They also provide higher levels of digestible nutrients (like vitamin A) and more energy. Compared to grass, horses find alfalfa hay to be very palatable, so they rarely waste it. Its high mineral and protein content prompts horses to drink more, making them always hydrated.


You may need to balance the ratio of calcium to phosphorus by adding phosphorus mineral supplements. Also, the nutrients in legume hays may be too high for easy-keeping horses that are prone to being overweight, or retired horses that have lower energy needs.

Furthermore, red clover is nutrient-rich but may be infected by a fungus that causes excessive slobbering in horses (though not life-threatening). Also, it can quickly become dusty. Finally, as a result of the high content of calcium, alfalfa may cause enteroliths, particularly in susceptible horse breeds.

Grass Hay

Common examples of grass hays are timothy hay, orchard grass, and Kentucky bluegrass.

Best Uses

It’s great for retired horses, horses involved in light work, and easy keepers and useful for helping to add roughage and buffer stomach acid without adding excess protein or calories. Bulky grass hays provide fewer nutrients and can mimic a horse’s pattern of processing fibrous food and grazing slowly through its digestive system.


Although grass hay isn’t as high in energy and protein as legume hay, it’s higher in fiber, hence, an excellent choice for several horses. Since it contains fewer nutrients than legume hays, horses eat more of it to fill their stomach, making it useful for preventing boredom in stall-bound horses.


You may require more than grass hays to sustain a lactating or pregnant mare, a growing foal, or a hard-keeping horse. Also, horses that perform heavy tasks will require more nutrients and energy than can be gotten from grass hays alone.

Identifying Quality Grass Hay

Choosing the best hay for your horse can be a daunting task. Here are some factors to help you identify high-quality hay.

Texture and Appearance

It should have a sizeable mix of leafy clover/grass. Stalky grasses with mature seed heads aren’t suitable for horses. Check for weeds or thistle and signs of mold. The baling of hay should be when the hay contains about 15 to 17 percent moisture.

Also, the hay shouldn’t be too coarse. Otherwise, your horse won’t feel comfortable eating it. Leaves and stalks should be flexible when touched. Check for leaf shatters (disintegration of a leaf when held), as affected hays generally have fewer nutrients.


Quality grassy hay is typically pale gold or pale green. If it’s brown or dull, it probably endured rain when drying. If it’s too golden, it was perhaps too dry while being cut. Ensure to check the center of the bale and access the hay color. The outer part of a bale may bleach and lose some vitamin A nutrients but retain most of the other nutrients.


Avoid hays that are musty, sharp, and almost metallic in smell. The smell indicates that mold may have infected the hay. Avoid dusty hays, as they’re not healthy for your horse’s digestive system or lungs.


Heavy hay implies that it’s too wet, and light hays indicate extreme dryness.

Stage/Age of Hay When Harvested

The age of hays when harvested largely determines their nutritional value. Early matured hays have more nutrients and are very leafy. Late maturity hays have fewer leaves and thick, coarse stems. As the hay ages, it’s no longer as digestible, palatable, or proteinous as it was at the beginning. The stem-to-leaf ratio increases, so the hay contains higher fiber. To obtain maximum nutrients, consider harvesting legumes as soon as a few flowers begin appearing. Harvest grasses when the seed heads start to appear. Harvest grain hay as soon as the grain reaches the soft-dough level.

Consider matching the hay type to its suited horse type. You can feed lactating mares and growing foals with early maturity hay, but it may not be the ideal option for horses that require low nutrients. Mid or late maturity hays are perfect for horses that need low nutrients, as the horses will eat more to fill their bellies without becoming fat or overeating.


Blister beetles can infect alfalfa hay. Feeding your horse with hays that contain blister beetles isn’t healthy, as a chemical from the beetles can cause fever, colic, and eventually death. Blister beetles are common in dry regions in the United States, where grasshoppers are prolific all year round. Sadly, there are no sampling methods for detecting the toxicity level of blister beetles in hays.