Feeding Horses: What Is a Forage?

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Pasture, or grass, is a forage.

Forages contain a high crude-fiber content.  In general, a forage would be grass or hay.  Horses should be fed to horses because they provide nutrients.  But they don’t do just that.  Forage keeps up the muscle tone in the GI tract and provides horses with something to do.  Without forage, horses can develop bad habits such as stall weaving and wood-chewing.

According to Feeding and Care of the Horse, forages have the following characteristics:

They are bulky.

They high in fiber and low in digestible energy.

Forages are high in calcium and potassium and low in phosphorous. 

Sun-cured hays are higher in vitamins E, A, and K.

Vary in protein content.

Horses should have access to pasture in moderation.  But hay can be fed in larger amounts.  It is recommended that horses be fed many small meals throughout the day or else get their hay in a slow feeder to make it last longer.  This simulates natural grazing activity.

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Hay should be fed in little bits to mimic natural grazing.

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Clever Ponies

Over the gate

Across the floor

Around a tack trunk

Out the door

Undoing the latch

-it’s really thick

Scraping with a hoof

That did the trick

Kicking open the door-

Without getting smashed

There- in the middle

A pan of hot mash

Jump up on the floor

Little hooves flying

They got into the feed room

Without hardly trying!

Manes frosted with hay

Noses deep in the grain

These clever ponies

Will try this again!

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Equine Advice: How Much Feed Per Day

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Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, has something to say about how much of his body weight a horse needs in food per day.  Like all shetlands, she is always watching, listening and eating.

The average equine needs a total of 2% of his body weight in food per day.  Ideally, half of that (1%) should be in forage (hay or grass).  Grain should be no more than 40% of a horse’s daily feed.

Ponies, however, think they should be fed 100% of their body weight in food per day.

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