Feeding Horses: What Is a Forage?


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.


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


Equine Advice: Plants that are Toxic to Horses


Gypsy, the Equine Encyclopedia, has something to say about plants that are toxic to horses.  Like all shetlands, she is always watching, listening and learning. 

Some plants that horses must not eat are:

Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinium)

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)

Fiddleneck (Ansinckia intermedia)

Prince’s Plume (Stanleya spp.)

Horsetail (Equisetum spp.)

Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)

Jimsonweed (Datura spp.)

Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Locoweed (Astragalus spp.)

Tansy Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

Rattleweed (Crotalaria spectabilis)

Wild Cherry (Prunus spp.)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Woody Aster (Xylorrheza spp.)

Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis)

Wild Onion (Allium validum)

These are only a few plants; many more exist.