The horse is a herbivore, meaning that it feeds exclusively on plant food.
This can be clearly seen in natural conditions when horses nibble on grass for about 20 hours a day. Since horses’ stomachs are small, they eat frequently but in small portions. Outside of nature, however, racehorses have lost the ability to have constant access to grass and are all the more in need of extra energy to work. Let’s talk about efficient feeding and how horses eat, what they eat, and how much, right now.
What do horses eat?
About twenty years ago, no one would have thought that horses could be fed anything other than hay, oats, and grass. Today, however, it is an entire developed industry. Horse feeding has become the activity of many scientists in dozens of laboratories around the world. It is safe to say that it is now a whole complex science that requires a particular approach.
Like humans, horses have an individual character, body peculiarity, constitution, and therefore the necessary amount of food. Feed for horses should provide the body with all the necessary nutrients and depend on the purpose of using the animal. For the most part, the diet of domestic animals consists of roughage and concentrates. But the diet of a wild horse is quite different. But let’s talk about everything in order.
Horses eating in the wild
So, what does a horse eat in the wild? The answer is obvious – grass and various vegetation. Wild horses have to make do with such food year-round. Only during the warm season, their diet consists of fresh, juicy grass, and in winter it consists of dry and frozen grass. As you can see, this is quite enough for free horses to exist perfectly.
The diet and forage of horses differ from region to region and depend on the area. In more inhospitable climatic conditions, wild horses may eat small twigs of bushes and even gnaw on tree bark. In southern latitudes, on the other hand, animals are adapted to softer, succulent grass. In steppe regions, horses eat tall grasses and plants with dense stems.
Horse eating in the home
In the process of domestication and the use of horses for work, humans had to feed their animals properly and more carefully. After all, they practically worked all day long: plowing, driving, fighting, hauling loads, and more. Now grass and hay were not enough for a horse to perform its service properly. The horses’ diet began to include grain and various flour products to sustain the animals’ energy. A little later, with the development of equestrian sport, even more, concentrated, the nutritious feed was required, in the form of bran, compound feed, and all kinds of vitamin premixes.
The diet of racehorses depends on many factors. Here zootechnicians take into account the sex of the animal, and age, and the direction of work, health, time of year, constitution, breed, and more. During training and trials, the feed can change every day. Therefore, there is no perfect diet. It is more correct to say that it is individual but necessarily balanced.
At home, animals eat grain, hay, grass, root vegetables, concentrated feed, bran, vitamin supplements. This is the basis of any healthy horse’s diet. But when and what our modern racehorses eat, let’s talk in more detail.
How and what do I feed my horses?
As we have said before, for horses, feed and its amount depends on the use and work of the animal. So now we will only give an average of what and how much an average domestic horse eats. For example, a horse weighing 450-500 kilograms per day will need about 6 kilograms of oats, 7-10 kilograms of hay, up to 6 kilograms of root vegetables (beets or carrots), about 2 kg of bran. That’s in addition to fresh grass in summer during grazing and additional dainties in the form of apples, cabbage, or croutons. The menu should also be varied with special vitamin supplements depending on the sex and age of the animal.
Horses should be fed at specific times depending on the schedule and regime of the day in small portions. The most correct routine is based on feeding three times a day, for example in the morning after sleep, at lunchtime, and in the evening. In addition, there should always be fresh hay in the manger and salt-licker in a separate container. In summer, in their free time, the animals are let out to pasture.
Structure of the horse’s ration
Zootechnicians conditionally divide all feed for horses into two large groups: bulky – grass, hay, straw, and concentrated – grain and grain products. However, each of these groups is divided into even smaller ones. For example, bulk feeds are divided into coarse – hay and straw, and succulent – grass, haylage. Concentrates are divided into grains, root crops, and other additives such as bran. The most basic difference between all these feeds is the nutritional and energy value.
When it comes to how to feed properly, it all depends on the work. A horse that works hard should get a lot of concentrates, but animals on light work don’t need a lot of them. However, it is important to note that from a physiological point of view, the first group of feeds is more important for horse health than the second. The share of bulk feed should be 60 to 80% of the daily norm. But the number of concentrates should not exceed 40%.
What do horses eat in the wild?
Depending on where they live, wild horses eat a variety of plants. They will eat anything from grass to flowers. Shrubs are a second choice, followed by forbs. However, grasses are the top preference for most horses. They can’t get all their energy from tiny plants. As a result, they graze throughout the day, often consuming several kilograms of food each day.
The best way to understand a horse’s digestive system is to observe it in its natural habitat. In the wild, grass and tender plants make up eighty percent of their diets. Forbs and shrubs make up the remaining 10%. The average grazing pasture will provide an average of 12% of a horse’s daily energy needs. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a guide that can help you assess your pasture and determine how nutritious it is for your equine friend.
Wild horses also eat grass. Many different types of grasses and forbs are edible to horses. Sagebrush, for example, is extremely nutritious for your horse. In the wild, there were more horses than stables, and this means that their diet varied. As a result, the best thing you can do for your horse is to mimic what they ate. Just remember that modern grains are not natural for horses and can cause dental problems and ulcers.
Another popular choice for forage is sagebrush. While this can be tough in the winter, the flowers and leaves are extremely soft in the spring. This makes sagebrush an excellent choice for horse feed. Aside from being nutritious, sagebrush is also a great source of moisture. The plant provides a lot of vitamins and minerals, and it’s good for the horse’s digestion.
Despite the fact that horses are omnivorous, the animals in the wild can eat raw meat and vegetables. Their favorite vegetables are carrots, pumpkin, and snow peas. Their diets can also include some leafy greens and other vegetables. Fresh fruits are another great source of nutrition for horses. You should remember that the dietary habits of the wild mustangs are different from those of captive breeds.
The grass is another popular choice for forage. It is hard to imagine a horse not eating bushes in the wild, but horses can eat a variety of plants in the wild. Among the most common types of plants that horses eat are sagebrush, forsylvania, and sage. Whether it’s sage or grass, they are generally easy to digest.
In the wild, horses eat forage. They spend a lot of their time eating. They eat with their heads down. During this process, they reduce the risk of dirt inhalation and colic. This helps them chew their food better. In addition to grass, forbs also help to keep their hooves healthy and fit. They have a variety of diets and can also eat forbs.
In the wild, horses eat a variety of plants and bushes. They prefer to eat grass, but they will also eat forbs. The more diverse the diet is, the more likely it is to be a healthy and balanced one. By observing a horse’s diet, you can get a better understanding of what a healthy, natural horse diet looks like. It contains a wide range of nutrients.
The most important aspect of a healthy diet is to feed your horse the right foods. A horse’s diet should contain plenty of grass. It is essential for its health and well-being. In addition to grass, horses also eat various plants. Grass and forbs are a good source of water for wild horses. If there is enough water available, the horses will drink the water. They can also get water from a variety of plants.
The main food of wild horses is pasture grass. Grazing allows them to stay active. They also consume weed plants and other plant matter. These plants are sometimes difficult to find, but they are still vital to a horse’s health. A healthy diet includes a variety of nutrients, which are essential to its well-being. There are many different types of weeds that wild horses eat, but you must be aware of them and understand the type of plants they eat.