The average horse consumes 2 to 2.5 percent of his bodyweight in forage each day. This means your 1,000-pound horse should have between 20 and 25 pounds of hay each day, assuming he doesn’t spend time on pasture. With this in mind, why do you spend hours agonizing over the best concentrate to meet your horse’s needs, yet simply “settle” on what’s available when it comes to hay?
The right hay can provide 100 percent of the required nutrients for many horses. And in a perfect world, your horse would be nibbling on longstem forage (pasture or hay) 24-7, just as he would in the wild. Eating all day long not only ensures that his gastrointestinal tract functions properly, but also keeps his mind at ease.
But a perfect world is sometimes unrealistic. If you can’t meet all your horse’s nutritional needs with hay, he should have a minimum of 1 percent of his body weight per day in long-stem fiber. Studies show that when total ration particle size falls below one inch, colic risks increase and behavior vices, such as wood chewing, become more frequent.
Beyond the need for long-stem fiber, digestible energy (calories), protein content, and carbohydrate levels are three important components of your horse’s diet. Here’s a rundown of each one.
Digestible energy: The term “digestible energy” (DE) refers to calories per pound. In practical terms, the higher