In this informative video by DennisBrouse, titled “The Role of Protein Supplements in Horse Nutrition,” you will discover the fascinating world of horse nutrition. The video dives into the evolution of horses and how their stomach sizes have limited what they can eat and how they can be fed. It emphasizes the importance of forage, such as hay or pasture, as the main component of a horse’s diet. Additionally, the video explores the need to balance the horse’s diet with concentrates or supplements to meet their nutritional requirements. It discusses various options for concentrates, such as oats, corn, barley, and protein supplements like soybean meal. However, it also cautions against adding too much concentrate as it can overload the horse’s system and cause digestive issues. Overall, this video provides valuable insights into the complex world of horse nutrition.

Understanding Horse Nutrition Basics

horse nutrition plays a vital role in the overall health and well-being of these magnificent creatures. In order to provide the best care for your horse, it is important to understand the basics of their dietary needs. This article will cover various aspects of horse nutrition, including the evolution of their diet, the importance of forage, the role of concentrates, protein supplements, vitamins and minerals, feed store options, the digestive system of horses, potential risks and dangers in their diet, and solving nutrition challenges for different horse needs. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will have a better understanding of how to balance your horse’s diet for optimal nutrition.

Evolution of Horse Diet

Horses have evolved to continuously graze for 16 to 18 hours a day. Their stomachs are relatively small compared to their body size, which has created limitations in terms of what and how we can feed them to meet their nutritional requirements. Forage, such as hay or pasture, should be the primary component of a horse’s diet. By providing a diet primarily focused on forage, we can then supplement any nutritional deficiencies with concentrates or supplements.

Importance of Forage in Horse Diet

Forage should be the foundation of a horse’s diet. Most horses will consume about one and a half to two percent of their body weight in forage per day. This means that a thousand-pound horse will eat 15 to 20 pounds of hay or equivalent pasture. Forage is essential in providing the necessary fiber, energy, and nutrients for horses. While horses can survive on hay alone, adding other elements to their diet becomes necessary when they are involved in performance activities, are lactating, geriatric, or in the breeding season.

Average Consumption of Horse

When it comes to pasture, it may require one to two acres to continuously feed a horse without the need for supplemental nutrients or feedstuff. Horses may consume one to two percent of their body weight in forage per day, which amounts to 15 to 20 pounds of hay or equivalent pasture for a thousand-pound horse.

Effect of Changes in Diet on Horses

Changing a horse’s diet can have a significant impact on their overall health and well-being. Horses that are introduced to new feeds or undergo rapid dietary changes may experience digestive problems, including colic. It is essential to gradually adapt horses to new diets and ensure proper nutrition to avoid any potential health issues.

Types of Forages for Horses

Grass Hays and Their Impact

Grass hays, such as bromb orchard, Kentucky bluegrass, and fescue, are examples of good pasture grass but not ideal hay grass. These grass hays provide varying levels of nutrition and should be considered when balancing a horse’s diet.

Legumes as Forage

Legumes like alfalfa and red clover can be used as forage for horses. However, red clover may cause slobbers in horses, so it should be used with caution. Legumes can be beneficial in meeting nutritional deficits in a horse’s diet, particularly in terms of protein content.

Balancing Forages for Optimal Nutrition

To ensure optimal nutrition, it is crucial to balance the various types of forages in a horse’s diet. Combining different types of hay, pasture, and legumes can help provide a well-rounded and balanced diet for horses.

Introduction to Concentrates in Horse Nutrition

Role of Concentrates

Concentrates play a crucial role in horse nutrition by providing additional energy and nutrients that may be lacking in forage. They are usually high in energy and can enhance a horse’s overall diet.

Common Types of Concentrates Used

Oats, corn, barley, and middlings are common types of concentrates used in horse nutrition. These concentrates are high in energy and often provide additional nutrients. It is important to choose concentrates that meet the specific dietary needs of the horse.

Potential Risks of Overloading with Concentrates

While concentrates can be beneficial, overloading a horse’s diet with excessive amounts can lead to digestive problems and colic. It is essential to strike a balance between forage and concentrates to avoid overloading their system.

Balancing Concentrates with Forages

To maintain a balanced and healthy diet, it is vital to balance the intake of concentrates with the consumption of forages. The right combination of forages and concentrates will provide horses with the energy and nutrients they need while minimizing the risk of digestive issues.

Understanding Protein Supplements for Horses

Why Protein is Essential for Horse Diet

Protein is an essential component of a horse’s diet, as it plays a crucial role in muscle development and overall growth. It is important to provide horses with adequate protein through their diet to ensure their well-being and performance.

Commonly Used Protein Supplements

Soybean meal and linseed meal are commonly used protein supplements in horse nutrition. These supplements can help meet any protein deficiencies in a horse’s diet and support their overall growth and health.

Balancing Protein Supplements with Other Nutrients

When incorporating protein supplements into a horse’s diet, it is important to ensure a balanced intake of other nutrients as well. This includes monitoring the levels of energy, vitamins, and minerals to maintain an optimal diet for the horse.

Exploring Vitamins and Minerals for Horses

The Importance of Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for a horse’s overall health and well-being. They play important roles in various bodily functions and should be included in a balanced diet to ensure horses receive the necessary nutrients.

Commonly Used Vitamins and Minerals

Common vitamins and minerals used in horse nutrition include vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These nutrients contribute to a horse’s overall health and should be provided in appropriate quantities.

The Risks of Overdose or Deficiency

Both vitamin and mineral deficiencies and overdoses can have adverse effects on a horse’s health. It is important to carefully monitor and regulate the intake of these nutrients to maintain optimal health and prevent any deficiencies or excessive accumulations.

Understanding Feed Store Options

The Concept of Mixed Rations

Many feed companies provide premixed rations, which include a combination of concentrates, protein supplements, vitamins, and minerals. These mixed rations offer a convenient option for horse owners, ensuring that all the necessary components are properly balanced.

Usage of Sweet Feed

Sweet feed refers to a type of concentrate that contains molasses. It is a popular option for horse owners as the molasses helps improve taste and palatability. However, it is important to monitor the intake of sweet feed, as excessive consumption can lead to health issues.

Role of Fibrous Material in Horse Diet

Fibrous material, such as beet pulp or soybean hulls, can be added to horse diets to provide additional nutrients and fiber. These materials help promote digestive health and add variety to a horse’s diet.

Dissecting the Digestive System of Horses

Working of Horse’s Digestive System

Horses have a unique and highly efficient digestive system. Their food passes through the small intestine and then into the hindgut, where fermentation takes place. This process enables horses to efficiently extract nutrients from their diet.

Effect of Overeating on Horses

Horses are susceptible to overeating, especially when it comes to grain or concentrate intake. Overeating can lead to digestive problems and colic. It is important to monitor their food intake and ensure it is within recommended limits.

Why Horses Can’t Regurgitate

Unlike humans, horses cannot regurgitate their food. This inability is due to the structure of their esophagus and the absence of a vomit reflex. It is important to feed horses a consistent and balanced diet to avoid any digestive issues.

Risks and Dangers in the Horse Diet

Potential Dietary Risks for Horses

Feeding horses an improper or unbalanced diet can pose various risks to their health. These risks include digestive problems, colic, nutritional deficiencies, and toxicity. It is essential to carefully plan and monitor their diet to avoid these issues.

Impact of Quick Diet Changes on Horses

Making sudden and drastic changes to a horse’s diet can have adverse effects on their digestive system. Horses should be gradually transitioned to new feeds or diets to prevent any digestive issues or disturbances.

Effects of Mold in Hay on Horses

Moldy hay can be extremely detrimental to a horse’s health. Certain types of molds can produce toxins that can cause severe illness or even death. It is essential to thoroughly inspect and properly store hay to prevent mold growth and protect the horse’s well-being.

Solving Nutrition Challenges for Different Horse Needs

Nutrition for Performance Horses

Performance horses have increased nutritional needs due to their physical exertion and muscle development requirements. It is important to provide these horses with a well-balanced diet that meets their energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral needs.

Feeding Lactating Mares

Lactating mares have higher nutritional requirements due to the energy demands of milk production. Providing these mares with an appropriate diet that meets their increased energy and nutrient needs is crucial for both the mare and the foal’s well-being.

Nutrition for Geriatric Horses

Geriatric horses have specialized nutritional needs, including easy-to-digest food, increased fiber, and joint support. Balancing their diet with the necessary nutrients will help maintain their overall health and quality of life.


Gut health plays a vital role in a horse’s overall well-being and performance. By understanding the basics of horse nutrition and balancing their diet with the right combination of forages, concentrates, protein supplements, vitamins, and minerals, you can ensure your horse receives optimal nutrition. By considering the unique needs of horses in various stages of life or performing different activities, you can adapt their diets to provide the best care and support their overall health and vitality. Remember, a well-balanced and properly managed diet is the key to a happy and healthy horse.