Do you ever wonder what you should feed your horse? Well, it turns out that when you feed them is just as important. You see, nutrients are absorbed in different ways. A horse has two types of digestion: enzymatic digestion in the small intestine and fermentation in the large intestine. During enzymatic digestion, enzymes convert sugars and starches into glucose, giving your horse an energy boost. During fermentation, microbes convert fibers into volatile fatty acids, gradually releasing energy. But what is the ideal feeding time? First and foremost, it is recommended to give your horse smaller portions at regular intervals. Then, provide high-sugar and high-starch feed about an hour and a half to two hours before exercise, on top of their normal diet. This high glucose level in the blood will give your horse an energy boost during the activity. Additionally, feed them a diet rich in fat and fiber at least six to eight weeks before for greater endurance. Ensure your horse has access to roughage as frequently as possible to keep their digestive system well-filled. This helps prevent gastric ulcers, dehydration, and colic. Offering a little roughage before the concentrate feed also aids in better digestion. Does your horse sweat a lot? Make sure to provide them with adequate water containing a balanced electrolyte mix. And last but not least: only give supplements when your horse truly needs them. The ideal timing for supplements depends on the product. When it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements, it’s best to administer them in a course of six to eight weeks. A single boost of vitamins won’t do much. Follow these guidelines for optimal performance. Need advice? Contact your partner in horse feed: Cavalor.

Understanding Your Horse’s Digestive System

Horses have a unique digestive system that is geared towards processing the forage-based diet they naturally consume. To properly care for your horse, it is essential to understand the different types of digestion that occur in their digestive system. Horses have both enzymatic and fermentation digestion processes.

Types of Digestion in Horses: Enzymatic and fermentation

Enzymatic digestion takes place in the horse’s small intestine, where enzymes break down sugars and starches into glucose. This glucose is then used as a source of energy for the horse’s body. On the other hand, fermentation digestion occurs in the large intestine, where microbial organisms help break down fibrous material into volatile fatty acids (VFAs).

The Role of Enzymes in Breaking Down Sugars and Starch into Glucose

Enzymes play a vital role in the horse’s digestive system as they assist in breaking down sugars and starches into glucose. This glucose is essential for providing the horse with the energy it needs to carry out its daily activities. Without proper enzymatic digestion, horses may struggle to obtain the necessary nutrients from their diet.

Role of Microorganisms in Converting Fibers into Volatile Fatty Acids

The fermentation process in a horse’s large intestine is facilitated by microorganisms, such as bacteria and protozoa. These microorganisms help convert fibrous material, such as hay and grass, into volatile fatty acids (VFAs). VFAs are a valuable source of energy for the horse, as they are easily absorbed and utilized. Without a healthy population of microorganisms, the horse may experience digestive issues and a decreased ability to extract nutrients from its feed.

Horse Feeding Schedule: Best Times to Feed

Establishing a proper feeding schedule for your horse is crucial for its overall health and well-being. It is recommended to provide regular, small portion feedings rather than large meals to mimic the horse’s natural grazing behavior.

Importance of Regular, Small Portion Feedings

Feeding horses with small portions at regular intervals helps to maintain a steady flow of nutrients into their digestive system. This approach closely mirrors the natural grazing behavior of horses, where they consume small amounts of forage throughout the day. Regular, small portion feedings also prevent digestive health issues, such as colic and gastric ulcers, that can occur when horses are fed infrequently or in large amounts.

Ideal Timing for Feeding High Sugar and Starch Feed

When it comes to feeding high sugar and starch feeds, timing is crucial. These types of feeds, such as grain, can provide a quick energy boost to horses. It is recommended to feed high sugar and starch feeds approximately 1.5 to 2 hours before exercise. This allows the horse’s digestive system to properly break down and utilize the sugars and starches, providing the energy needed for optimal performance during a workout or competition.

Pre-Workout Meals for Horses

Proper nutrition before a workout is essential for providing your horse with the energy it needs to perform at its best. One crucial element in pre-workout meals is the role of glucose in providing an energy boost during exercise.

Role of Glucose in Providing an Energy Boost During Exercise

Glucose is a primary energy source for horses during exercise. By providing pre-workout meals that are rich in glucose, such as grain feed, you can give your horse the energy boost it needs to perform strenuous activities. Glucose is quickly absorbed and metabolized by the horse’s body, making it an efficient source of energy.

Giving Grain Feed Rich in Sugar and Starch 1.5 to 2 Hours Prior to Exercise

To optimize the benefits of glucose in providing an energy boost, it is recommended to provide grain feed rich in sugar and starch approximately 1.5 to 2 hours before exercise. This allows enough time for the feed to be digested and metabolized, providing the horse with readily available glucose during the workout. It is important to note that the amount of grain feed should be appropriate for the horse’s size, workload, and individual dietary needs.

Long-Term Nutrition for Enhanced Endurance

If you are preparing your horse for a major activity, such as a long-distance race or endurance ride, long-term nutrition planning is crucial. By implementing a well-designed nutrition plan, you can enhance your horse’s stamina and ensure its optimal performance during prolonged activities.

Start Feeding Fiber and Fat-Rich Feed 6-8 Weeks Before Major Activities

About 6-8 weeks before a major activity, it is beneficial to start incorporating fiber and fat-rich feeds into your horse’s diet. These feeds provide a slow-release source of energy that can sustain your horse’s endurance throughout the activity. Fiber also helps support a healthy digestive system and prevents gastrointestinal issues that can arise during prolonged exercise.

Implications of Long-Term Nutrition Plan on Horse’s Stamina

A carefully planned long-term nutrition plan can have significant implications for your horse’s stamina. By gradually introducing fiber and fat-rich feeds into their diet, you are optimizing their energy stores and conditioning their digestive system to efficiently utilize these energy sources. This improved stamina can make a considerable difference in your horse’s performance during endurance activities.

Importance of Forage in a Horse’s Diet

Forage, such as hay or grass, is a critical component of a horse’s diet. It serves multiple purposes in supporting their overall health and well-being, and its inclusion should not be overlooked.

Keeping the Digestive System Filled with Roughage

Forage, particularly in the form of high-quality hay, helps keep the horse’s digestive system functioning properly. The fibrous material provides bulk to the diet, ensuring that the digestive system remains active and healthy. Without sufficient roughage, horses are at risk of developing digestive issues such as impaction colic or gastric ulcers.

Prevention of Gastric Ulcers, Dehydration, and Colics Through Ample Hay

Inadequate forage intake can lead to various health issues in horses. One of the most significant concerns is the development of gastric ulcers. A consistent supply of hay helps buffer the horse’s stomach acid, reducing the risk of ulcers. Additionally, forage provides moisture, contributing to hydration and preventing conditions such as impaction colic. Ensuring ample hay availability is crucial for maintaining your horse’s digestive health.

Meal Sequencing for Optimal Digestion

The order in which you feed your horse’s meals can have a significant impact on their digestive process. Understanding meal sequencing and its effects on digestion can help ensure that your horse’s nutrition is optimized.

Providing Roughage Before Grain Feed

To support optimal digestion, it is recommended to provide roughage, such as hay or grass, before feeding grain or concentrate feeds. Roughage, being high in fiber, takes longer to digest than grain feeds. By providing roughage first, you allow the horse’s digestive system to acclimate and prepare for the intake of concentrated feeds. This sequencing helps prevent digestive issues, such as colic or acidosis, which can occur when grain feeds are introduced on an empty stomach.

How Feeding Order Affects Digestion

Feeding order can influence the rate of digestion and the horse’s overall digestive health. When roughage is provided before grain feeds, the horse’s digestive system has time to process the fibrous material before moving on to the more concentrated feeds. This sequencing promotes a slower, steadier digestion process and reduces the risk of digestive disturbances.

Hydration for Horses

proper hydration is crucial for maintaining a horse’s health and performance. Horses can lose significant amounts of water through sweating, and it is essential to ensure timely water supply to prevent dehydration.

Dealing with Sweating: Timely Water Supply

When horses sweat, they lose not only water but also electrolytes, which are essential for maintaining proper bodily functions. It is important to provide timely access to clean, fresh drinking water to replace the lost fluids. Offering water immediately after exercise or during breaks ensures that your horse can rehydrate quickly and replenish the essential electrolytes.

Balanced Electrolyte Mix for Dehydration Prevention

In addition to water, electrolyte supplementation is necessary to prevent dehydration and maintain proper electrolyte balance. Balancing the appropriate mix of electrolytes helps support your horse’s physical performance and overall health. Electrolyte supplements should be administered according to the manufacturer’s instructions or under the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure the correct dosage for your horse’s needs.

Supplement Timing and Selection

Supplements can play a role in maintaining your horse’s health and addressing specific nutritional needs. However, it is important to understand when and how to provide supplements for optimal effectiveness.

Only Provide Supplements When Necessary

While supplements can be beneficial, it is essential to only provide them when necessary. A well-balanced diet that meets your horse’s nutritional needs should always be the priority. Supplements should be used to address specific deficiencies or special requirements that cannot be met through diet alone. Consulting with a trusted equine nutritionist or veterinarian can help ensure that supplements are used appropriately.

Varied Timing Based on Individual Supplements’ Nature

The timing of supplement administration can vary based on the nature of the supplement and its intended purpose. Some supplements may need to be given with meals to aid in digestion and absorption, while others may be more effective when administered separately. Always follow the instructions provided by the supplement manufacturer or seek guidance from a professional to determine the best timing for each specific supplement.

Guidelines for Providing Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are commonly used in horse nutrition to ensure that all essential nutrients are met. However, it is important to understand the guidelines for administering these supplements to achieve maximum benefits.

Duration of Supplement Courses: Minimum of 6-8 Weeks

When providing vitamin and mineral supplements, it is important to give them for an extended period to allow sufficient time for the horse’s system to absorb and utilize the nutrients. A minimum supplementation course of 6-8 weeks is generally recommended to see noticeable effects. Continuous, long-term supplementation may be necessary for horses with specific deficiencies or health conditions.

Ineffectiveness of Single Vitamin Boosts

While it may be tempting to provide single vitamin boosts, such as vitamin C or vitamin E, it is generally more effective to focus on a well-balanced diet and supplementation plan. Single vitamin boosts may not provide the full spectrum of necessary nutrients and can disrupt the overall nutritional balance. It is advisable to consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian to develop a comprehensive supplementation plan tailored to your horse’s individual needs.


Understanding your horse’s digestive system and nutritional needs is crucial for providing proper care and ensuring optimal performance. By considering factors such as enzymatic and fermentation digestion, feeding schedule, pre-workout meals, long-term nutrition, forage, meal sequencing, hydration, supplement timing and selection, and vitamin and mineral supplementation guidelines, you can create a well-rounded nutrition plan for your horse.

Balancing energy boost and endurance boost in feeding, along with adequate hydration and appropriate supplementation strategies, will support your horse’s overall health and performance. Remember, when in doubt, it is always best to seek guidance from a trusted partner, such as an equine nutritionist or veterinarian, for expert advice tailored to your horse’s specific needs. With the right knowledge and care, you can ensure that your horse receives the nutrition it needs to thrive.