A mindful horseperson is always thinking, observing, learning, and trying to improve their horses’ environment and feed or the eating habitat of a horse.
In their natural state, horses rely on grasses and other cellulose material. It takes a lot of digesting, so they eat small quantities all day long and moving almost always. They also seek out mineral sources in rocks or soils and nibble herbs, leaves, and other plants for supplements. Their food sources change throughout the year with the seasons and with their slow migration around their range. In the peak of summer, they will eat grasses with the seedheads; as food grows scarce, they will paw at the stubble to get to the roots; in winter, they will strip the bark of trees, particularly in February when the sap is rising. They need long fibers to serve best their digestion, a broad range to roam, and lots of water.
Eating Habitat Of Horse
When we confine them to stalls and pastures, we are in force to try to recreate their natural diet, something we do with mixed success. The old “working horse” fare of grains and hay is not ideal for a pleasure horse, and it’s hard to keep adequate fiber and carbohydrates moving through the horse’s system in small quantities.
In my lifetime, I have seen a remarkable increase in the types of feeds and forages available, many of which are pretty good at balancing protein, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and other necessary elements according to the horse’s workload.
Round bales and slow feeders can provide continuous access to hay. Mineral licks replace the natural rock and soil versions. There is a housekeeping method called the Pasture Paradise that seeks to emulate the natural setting of the horse, and I have incorporated some of its features in my housekeeping.
How Much Food Can A Horse eat Per Day
A 1000 lb horse(that’s an average size, though a pony can be half that weight) would consume between 15 and 20 lbs of hay (dried grass) and concentrates (a bagged product often made of beet pulp, soy meal, etc.).
A horse should consume about 1.5–2% of his weight in feed daily.
Horses need to feed according to the horse’s weight (not height) and the weight of the food (not its volume).
Some of the forage may be there to provide by a pasture where the horse can graze on fresh grass, though mainly in spring, green can be so lush and vibrant that it makes horses extremely sick(horses evolved in a world where pastures were very sparse). So you can’t just leave them out on the field 24/7.
Horses should never be on lawn clippings. These ferment very rapidly and can kill a horse. Don’t ever dump lawn clippings or leaves over your fence into your neighbor’s horse pasture. Even just a handful of some types of tree leaves can kill horses. Never give a horse anything to eat unless you get permission first from the owner.
Generally, a horse of that weight would get no more than 5 lbs of his food in concentrates. Most of the diet should be forage (pasture or hay made of grass, legumes like clover, alfalfa, etc.).
A Swedish study ( I think it was Swedish anyway) experimented with feeding race horses hay and instead of a bagged concentrate, several pounds of alfalfa hay. Alfalfa provides lots of protein and carbohydrates for energy, but one does have to be careful with it; it makes some horses overly nervous.