What Do Horses Eat? – Food Guide

horse eats leaves

Before you get a horse, you need to know what food these animals eat. 

Your horse’s diet is one of the most important things when it comes to keeping it healthy in the long term. This article will help you get a better idea as to what you should be feeding them on a daily basis.

1. Hay

Hay should ideally make up a majority of your horse’s daily diet. Alfalfa and other high quality hay will provide your horse with a lot of the nutrients they need each day. You’ll want to have the hay tested before you give it to your horse. This way you can make up for any vitamins or minerals with a supplement.

2. Grass

In the absence of hay, pasture grass is the second best option. Many people simply cannot afford to give their horses hay all of the time, which is perfectly fine. You just have to make sure that the grass you let your horse graze on will meet their nutritional requirements.

3. Grains

The fact is that a lot of horses simply do not need grain in their diet at all. Most of their calories will come from the hay you give them. You can always add a little bit of grain to your horse’s diet, but you need to be careful. The last thing you want is for your horse to pack on too many pounds and become overweight.

horse food

4. Salt

It is pretty standard for people to give their horses a salt block once in a while. There are many salt blocks that contain a variety of minerals that can do wonders for maintaining the horse’s overall health.

You will be able to hang a salt block from your horse’s fence so that it can lick it at its leisure. These blocks don’t cost very much, but they can be of great value when it comes to keeping your equine companion healthy over the years.

5. Concentrate Mixes

Concentrates will also make up an important but relatively small part of your horse’s diet. These contain things like flaxseed molasses, and various grains. A commercial concentrate mix is ideal if you just have one or two horses. Those who have a lot of horses should consider going through a feed mill to get their concentrated custom made.

6. Treats

It can be tempting to give your horse a lot of delicious treats, but you’ll need to avoid overdoing it. You should refrain from giving your horse a lot of sugary or high-calorie foods as treats. This can lead to excess weight gain, which in turn can cause all sorts of health problems.

The best treats that you can give your horse include things like apples, sugar cubes and various vegetables. You can also give them the occasional little bit of grain. Even these foods are only good for your horse in moderation.

Some of the other foods that make for great horse treats include:

  • Oranges
  • Cherries
  • Beets
  • Peaches
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Plums
  • Coconut

Keep in mind that some horses take to certain foods faster than others. While one of your horses may love a certain food, another may not at all.

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You will also need to focus on keeping your horse hydrated by providing it with a steady supply of clean drinking water. Make sure that your horse always has access to fresh water on a daily basis. This is one of the most important aspects of keeping them healthy.

Foods to Never Give Your Horse

There are also certain foods that you should never give your horse. These foods range from mildly irritating to extremely dangerous for these animals.

Some of the worst foods you can give your horse include:

  • Rhubarb
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Stone fruits
  • Meat
  • Brans
  • Potatoes
  • Dairy products
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes

When you know which foods to avoid giving your horse, you will have a much easier time keeping yours healthy.


You should give your horse 2-3 meals per day, based on how old they are and other factors. It will be necessary to feed your horse more if it is pregnant. The added food is necessary to keep a mare healthy through its pregnancy.

Monitoring Your Horse’s Eating Habits

It is a good idea to closely monitor your horse’s eating habits so that you can tell if they are eating more or less than they should. This could be a sign that something is wrong with your horse, so you’ll want to know about it right away.

A sudden loss of appetite is a common sign of illness among horses, so you’ll want to keep that in mind. You shouldn’t try to force them to eat, but rather get a veterinarian to examine them thoroughly.

If your horse doesn’t seem to like the kind of hay you have given them, you can always try something else. The fact is that there are some horses that are pickier than others when it comes to the roughage they will eat.


  • Hay will make up a majority of your horse’s diet. It is a good idea to give them alfalfa, though it can be expensive.
  • If you cannot afford to give your horse hay all year round, pasture grass is a good alternative.
  • While horses do not require grain in their diet, you can add a little bit of it.
  • The occasional salt block with added minerals can really help with maintaining your horse’s overall health.
  • If you just one or two horses, a commercial concentrate mix is your best option.
  • Those who own many horses should consider getting their concentrate mixes customized through a feed mill.
  • Some of the best treats you can give your horse include apples, lettuce, oranges, peaches, and various berries.
  • You should avoid giving your horse any sugar foods,  as well as rhubarb, chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes, or potatoes.
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