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Horse Care





Reasons For Feeding

1. For growth and development; to build muscle, tissue and bone. 

2. To provide energy for work and for internal organs. 

3. To provide heat to maintain body temperature. The skin cools down first to leave any remaining heat for the internal organs to continue functioning. It is dangerous if the internal organs cool down too much as hypothermia can set in.


Rule Of Feeding


1. FEED LITTLE AND OFTEN. The horse has a small stomach and naturally eats, browses, sleeps and eats again. Unlike humans, most digestion happens in the intestines and not in the stomach.

Not more than 1.5 to 2 kilograms of concentrates (oats, cubes, maize, etc) should be fed at one meal.




3. Do not make sudden changes in the diet. The horse will become constipated or have  diarrhoea. The only exception is if the horse is suddenly seriously ill or if a very fit horse is  injured and taken off work.


4. Wait one and a half hours after feeding before working horses. Digestion is a slow process. If  the horse is worked with a full stomach the pressure can rupture the stomach or affect the  respiration. Exercise also alters the nervous condition of the horse which can interfere with digestion.


5. Feed plenty of succulents such as carrots. Put some in the feed every day. This will supply vitamins as well as keeping the horse interested in his food, especially if he is on a lot of concentrates (oats, or horse cubes).Succulents also help to prevent constipation.


Feeding Concentrates

The horse should never be given only grain or cereal to eat. Some roughage in the form of bran orchaff should be mixed into the feed bin so that the horse has to chew the food well. It makes the feed more interesting if carrots and other succulents are added.

When the horse is given a feed that is mostly concentrates, it is called a SHORT FEED. Short feeds can be given to the horse either in the manger or in a removable feed box. The feed should be slightly damped and then mixed well together. The horse must be left alone while eating so he is not disturbed.


Feeding Roughage

Some roughage in the form of bran or chaff should be given in feeds as discussed above. The bulk of the roughage, however, is fed separately as hay. Hay can be fed to the horse on the ground although this is wasteful as much of the hay is trampled. It is far better to put hay into hay nets. Apart from the fact that hay is safe from trampling, the hay net can also be weighed so that you can make sure the horse receives sufficient bulk.



It is very important to tie up the hay net correctly. In the stable, the hay net should be tied to a ring at eye level using a quick release knot. The bottom of the net must be caught by the tying up cord to stop the net sagging as the horse empties the hay. If this is not done there is the danger of the horse catching a hoof in the sagging net.

The same applies when hay nets are given to horses in fields. It is very dangerous to tie them to low fence posts. Horses naturally paw at food and it is easy for them to become entangled in the net and panic. A tall post should be erected along the fence on which the net can be hung at eyelevel. There may be a convenient tree in the paddock which is tall enough to take the net.



A group of stabled horses should be fed at the same time to prevent excessive excitement and pawing and kicking at the boxes. If you must give one of a group of stabled horses an extra feed do it quietly so as not to excite the others.

If you are feeding more than one horse in the field you must spread the feed bins apart so that fighting is not encouraged. Horses become very jealous around food. Some horses will be more aggressive than others and will chase timid companions away from their feeds. You must make sure that each horse has a chance to eat its food without being hurried or bullied by others. When feeding hay nets in the field hang one or two extra hay nets out to distract fast eaters from slower horses.


Times to Feed

This will vary from stable to stable according to what type of work the horses are doing. Horses that are stabled for most of the day should receive at least three feeds. A feed should be given as early as possible in the morning because the horse has been without food all night.

It is usual to give the smallest feed before exercise and the largest feed at night. Exercise must take place only after the horse has digested the last feed. A horse will take twenty minutes to eat a short feed and one and a half hours to digest it. 3.5 kilograms of hay will take two hours to eat and for this reason the largest hay nets are usually given at night.

If horses are at grass all day and the grazing is sufficient for the amount of work being done, no extra feed is given. If horses at grass need to be fed, however, they can be fed either in the morning or the evening, or both.


Amounts To Feed

There is a saying: "the eye of the master maketh the horse fat". It is very difficult to give hard and fast rules for the amounts that should be fed to horses. Amounts that suit one horse will not suit another as each horse is an individual. The person feeding the horse must be prepared to learn by experience and be ready to adjust the feed if the horse does not appear to be doing well.

There are some general guidelines to follow, however, These are based on the ideal proportions of food types for horses, as well as the height and weight of the horse, and the work the horse is doing.





Horses Doing Hard Fast WorkFraction Of Total Feed  

  • Carbohydrate two sixths (one third)
  • Fibre two sixths (one third)
  • Protein one sixth
  • Fats one sixth


Horses Doing Steady WorkFraction Of Total Feed  

  • Carbohydrate one sixth
  • Fibre three sixths (one half)
  • Protein one sixth
  • Fats one sixth


Weights Of Horses And Ponies

Here is a table giving the approximate weights of horses and ponies:

  •  13.2 h.h pony 250kg
  • 14.0 h.h pony 300kg
  • 15.0 h.h horse 400kg
  • 16.0 h.h horse 450kg
  • 16.3 h.h horse (middle weight) 500kg
  • 16.3 h.h horse (heavy weight) 550kg

This table can be used to estimate the amount of concentrate that should be fed. The amount will vary according to the age and temperament of the horse, and the work being done. 

For horses in work, feed just about one kilogram of concentrates for the first 50 kilograms of body weight and then half a kilogram for every 50 kilograms of body weight thereafter.

Reduce this amount if the horse is out to graze and doing very little work.

Increase the amount if the horse is in very hard, competitive work.



The total weight of the feed to be given per day can be calculated by using the height of the horse. 

  • Take the horse's height in hands =15.00 h.h
  • Subtract 4 = 11 kg
  • Add 1 = 12 kg

This horse should be fed 11‑12 kg of food in total per day. This will include concentrates and roughage divided into correct proportions of one sixth protein, one sixth fats, one third to one half fibre and one sixth to two sixths carbohydrates. The total weight of food (11‑12 kg) will be divided into three or more feeds. Remember that the total feed does not have to be divided exactly equally in weight. A larger feed can be given at night when the horse has time to digest. A smaller feed can be given prior to the horse exercising.



    Equine Distance Education Courses from ACS Distance Education
    (click on a course below to enrol or scroll down for detailed outline of Horse Care I)
    Learn to manage the daily requirements of a horse at grass. The course aims to develop:
    -The ability to handle horses using a range of different procedures
    -Skills to evaluate a horses conformation
    -An understanding of diet
    -Knowledge of grooming procedures
    -An ability to develop appropriate management procedures for a specific situation.
    -Knowledge of commercial opportunities in the horse industry, including how to buy and sell horses.
    Horse Care II
    This course develops skills in the management of horses in a wide range of situations, including in stables.
    Horse Care III
    Develops skills in the management of horses in a variety of situations

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