If you’re buying a horse or have already brought your first horse home, you’ll want to take some time to answer the question, “what do horses eat”? Horses are, by nature, a grazing animal. This means that they will do best when they have foraging material such as grass or different types of hay to eat on a regular basis.
Foraging material is usually provided through pasturing, where your horse is turned outside into a fenced area and allowed to graze freely. If your horse cannot spend a large portion of their day grazing or if grass in your pasture is sparse, you can supplement by feeding several “flakes” of hay in the morning and evening. Horses also need plenty of fresh water along with something known as concentrates which are whole grains and of course the occasional treat.
Typical Horse Food
Typical horse food involves lots of fresh water, some whole grains, and plenty of grass or hay. Whole grains, also called concentrates, can be oats, barley, corn, or even a mixture of these. Horses also love the occasional treat and some horses will have their own way of asking for treats and thanking you for them once you have delivered.
Your horse should have access to an outside pasture where they can eat grass daily. Horses can consume 1-1.5% of their body weight each day. The recommended pasture size is one and a half acres of pasture per horse. Make sure the pasture is green and has plenty of grass.
What Can Horses Eat: Human Foods
Horses can eat a wide variety of human foods. The foods they like as a treat most often are sugar cubes, carrots, pears, and apples. They can eat watermelon and some love the occasional piece of peppermint. Horses can safely eat things like corn on the cob and corn husks, bananas and banana leaves. Some people have horses that enjoy human foods like chips, pretzels, or ginger snaps.
Most fruits and vegetables that humans eat are okay but avoid foods like onions, tomatoes, and meat. Breads and cookies or cake should be very infrequent treats if at all. Always check with your vet before giving horses other human foods to be sure that it will be tolerated.
To safely feed your horse a human food, first get your vet’s approval and then start by giving them a small amount and watch over several days for any signs of distress. Keep in mind that horses will eat and eat something they enjoy, they don’t know how to moderate their consumption of something. It’s up to you to make sure that your horse doesn’t overeat because it will cause colic and can be fatal.
What Do Horses Eat FAQ
Horses as a rule, eat alfalfa or timothy hay, some type of concentrates or whole grains, and lots of fresh water. Horses must consume their food in small portions at a time. Instead of one big meal in the morning, they need to be offered food several times throughout the day. Daily grain amount is based on your horse’s total weight and depends on the mixture of grains and any health issues your horse may have. Check with your vet for confirmation but the recommended amount is about a half pound for each 100 pounds of weight.
A horse’s stomach is non-ruminant and small compared to a cow. That means even though they graze like a cow, their digestive system is a simple stomach not multi-compartmented. This means even though your horse looks and acts similar to a cow, their digestive system is more like yours than a cow’s. Horses will eat things that aren’t good for them and will overeat if given the chance. It’s up to you to check their pasture and stall area for anything poisonous and to keep grain/feed locked up tight where they can’t get into if they get out of their stall.
What Countries Eat Horse?
If you have a horse as a pet, you’ll no doubt find it hard to believe that people in some countries eat horse meat. In fact, several continents, other than the United States, including Asia, South America, and Europe eat horse meat regularly. Britain on the other hand, had quite the scandal over horse meat back in early 2013. It turns out a popular “beef” lasagna produced in France was determined to contain large percentages of horse meat, not beef, and was being sold to unsuspecting British consumers.
In Japan, the practice of eating raw horse meat is called “basashi”. China is one of the countries that consumes the most horse meat. It’s typically made into a sausage-like consistency and eaten with rice noodles. Following close on the heels of China when it comes to consumption of horse meat is Kazakhstan. Countries in addition to France, China, and Japan, that enjoy horse meat without a lot of fanfare or controversy are Italy, Germany and Austria, Korea, and Iceland.
How Much Hay Does a Horse Eat?
The recommended amount of hay for a horse is 15 to 20 pounds daily for a horse weighing approximately 1,000 pounds. During winter months when your horse has limited access to grass for foraging, feed them up to 25 pounds of hay daily. In winter months when horses have less access to grass because of snow, many people increase the amount of grain as well.
There are different types of hay including timothy, alfalfa, orchard grass, and Bermuda. If you are feeding your horse hay daily and they are leaving some of it, then adjust the amount of hay until they clean it up each time. Do not feed hay that has gotten damp or moldy or has been trampled on as it can cause problems for your horse.
What Do Wild Horses Eat?
Wild horses have existed in America for quite some time. Horses were originally brought to the Americas from Spain. With the increased human population and as the development of lands continues to increase, wild horses have a more difficult time finding their food.
Since horses are considered herbivores, wild horses eat grass, plants, bushes or shrubs, and even leaves if they can reach them. It’s not unusual for wild horses to graze for more than fifteen hours every day and this extended grazing can provide them with all the nutrients they need. Wild horses discover food by sight or smell. In the winter months, they will often paw through the snow to get to grass that is underneath. They can’t see the grass beneath the snow but they can smell it.
How Long Can Horses Go Without Water?
Horses require fresh drinking water daily. A typical adult horse will drink anywhere from five to ten gallons of water every day. If you have a horse in a stall or other enclosed area, you may need to replenish their drinking water more than once a day. In the winter months, if you do not have heated water buckets, you will need to check their water more frequently, and replace the water if it freezes.
Like people, a healthy adult horse can survive without water for only about three days. Horses without access to fresh drinking water will eat less and will begin to lose weight very quickly. Letting your horse go without ample drinking water is very dangerous as after several days dehydration can result in your horse’s organs shutting down. Damage to your horse from lack of sufficient water can be permanent and even fatal.
How Long Can a Horse Go Without Food?
As we mentioned, horses have smaller stomachs than cows and for this reason horses need to eat small amounts more often. Most horses will do very well if fed a small amount of grain in the morning and then turned out to graze all day, with another portion of grain and a few flakes of hay at night. If your pasture doesn’t have ample grass for them to graze happily, you’ll want to toss a few flakes of hay into the pasture in the morning as well.
There’s no issue with your horse going ten to twelve hours between grain feedings. Most horse owners will throw hay flakes in just before going to bed so their horse can munch if they get bored overnight. A horse that is bored can get into trouble and is more likely to try to eat things they shouldn’t, attempt to get out of their stall, or even begin to “crib” on the wooden rails of their stall.
How Much Do Horses Eat Every Day?
Adult horses need to eat between one and a half to three percent of their weight daily in dry material. The percentage needed depends largely on the amount of activity. Grain for horses starts at about a half pound per 100 pounds of body weight.
Consult with your vet about increasing this amount. Most owners feed less grain in warm weather and more in cold weather when grass in less accessible. Younger horses are generally more active and have more energy so they will eat more. Older horses and those that are less physically active won’t need to eat as much to maintain their weight.
What Do Horses Like to Eat?
Horses love to eat grass and it can keep them busy for hours every day. But many horses like to eat different kinds of foods as treats too. Horses like to eat apples, carrots, pears and many other fruits and vegetables. Horse owners have reported that their horses like to eat everything from bananas to fruit loops, gummy worms, and even those cute little marshmallow peeps! Just remember to provide treats in moderation and to watch for signs of distress after feeding your horse a new treat.
Where Does the Saying “I’m so hungry, I Could Eat a Horse” Come From?
If you’ve ever heard the saying “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse” you likely understood that the person was extremely hungry. But if you’ve ever wondered where the saying “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” originated from, we’re going to try and clear it up.
According to Google books, the saying is attributed to Tobias George Smollett and originated back in the year 1824. The expression Tobias Smollett used was “for I be so hoongry, I could eat a horse behind the saddle.” It stands to reason that back then “a horse behind the saddle” indicated that he was hungry enough to eat horse meat over the more appealing beef or pork meat. In addition, he was hungry enough to eat the horse’s rear end, which would be an even less desirable act.