<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-PK9D66" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden" title="gtm-frame"></iframe>Different types of horse feed | Agria Pet Insurance
03330 30 10 00
Get a quote
My AccountGet a quote
Get a quote

Back to Guides and advice

Different types of horse feed

Has your horse lost their fur in patches but you don't see any wounds? Then it may have suffered from fur-eating lice (Bovicola equi), a common ailment that leads to patchy hair loss. Here you can read more about symptoms, how lice are transmitted and how you can treat your horse.
Horse eating hay in a stable, by Roland Thunholm

Photo: Roland Thunholm

Horses fed hay silage should be vaccinated against botulism.


Hay is the most common food. A good hay covers a large part, if not all, of a horse's entire nutritional needs. The hay should be green, leafy, smell good and not be dusty or mouldy. It should be salvaged from a cultivated dyke and preferably before or right around midsummer.

Hay that has been harvested late has a poorer nutritional content - the stems are coarser and the ears larger. In order to be able to make a real forage report where you know that the horse's nutritional needs are satisfied, you have to do a nutritional analysis of the hay you use. 

It is estimated that a horse needs a daily supply of 1.2 kilos of hay per 100 kilos of weight. This means that a horse weighing 500 kilos should receive at least 6 kilos of hay - this is a minimum recommendation, in order for the horse to be able to cover its need for straw feed. To meet other nutritional needs, more is usually needed.

Hay silage is preserved, wrapped grass that hasn't been dried as long as hay, but longer than silage. Hay silage is becoming more and more common, but places great demands on both harvesting method and storage. During salvage, dead animals, for example mice or rabbits, may accidentally be stuffed into the bales. Then there is a risk of the growth of bacteria that form toxins, which can lead to a disease called botulism. In the worst case, the horse can die from the disease. Therefore, all horses fed hay silage should be vaccinated against botulism.

Large bales of hay silage should only be used in large barns that dispose of them quickly. A hay silage bale should not be open for more than four to five days - especially not during the warm season. Then the preservation ends and the feed goes bad. These days, small bales are often available to buy for those who have a smaller number of horses.

It is good to do a forage analysis on hay silage to get an overview of the nutrient content, but also to know how high the water content is. If the hay has a water content of 50 percent, the horse must have at least two kilos per 100 kilos of weight to cover its need for straw fodder, i.e. ten kilos for a 500 kilo horse.

Concentrated feed

Concentrated feed is used to supplement the high needs of growing or working horses, but many horses do well on a good roughage.

Concentrated feed should be divided into several feeds per day and a horse should not receive more than 0.4 kilos of concentrate per 100 kilos of weight at each feeding. If a horse receives too large portions at a time, too much of the feed will pass through the intestines undigested, causing a disturbance in the intestinal flora and, in the worst case, lead to colic.

Oats are the traditional concentrate, but today it is more common to give processed concentrate in the form of pellets and muesli.

Barley was previously used as a supplement to oats in mainly working horses' fodder states. It contains more energy than oats do, mainly in the form of starch. Barley has a hard core and must always be crushed in order for the horse to be able to assimilate the nutrition.

Wheat bran contains a lot of phosphorus and B vitamins, which is good for digestion. It also contains a lot of protein. Wheat bran can be given moistened in small doses (no more than 0.5 kilos per day or no more than 0.1 kilos per 100 kilos of body weight).

Soy flour and linseed contain high levels of protein and are only given to horses with a high protein requirement.

Juice feed

Betfor i derived from Swedish sugar beets. It contains a lot of sugar, which provides energy. Betfor should be used as a supplement to other feed and not as the main concentrate feed. It should always be wetted and swelled before it is given to a horse, otherwise the horse may get esophageal constipation and/or colic when it swells in the stomach.

Pour twice as much water as betfor into a bucket and let it stand for about an hour. Pelleted bet fodder takes longer to swell. Do not leave finished betfor too long - it ferments easily.

Carrots contain carotene which is converted into vitamin A. They must be cleaned, fresh (never frozen) and must not be mouldy or rotten.

Molasses is used in small amounts because it is high in energy and to improve the taste of other feed. A horse should not get more than 0.5 kilos of molasses per day.

Minerals and vitamins

With a well-composed forage state, the horse should not need extra vitamins. Pregnant mares, high-performance horses and young horses may sometimes, depending on the content of the forage in general, have a need for additional vitamins and then usually vitamins A, B, D and E.

Minerals may need to supplement the feed and are available to buy as ready mixes. Minerals and trace elements are needed for a strong skeleton, for the muscles and a number of other functions in the body. It is mainly calcium and phosphorus that the horse needs, but also copper, magnesium and iron. The easiest way to solve it is to give the horse free access to minerals in a separate manger. But make sure it actually eats!

Salt can be given to a horse by placing a rock of salt in the box or on the pasture. The need for salt varies with heat and exertion and therefore the horse must always have free access.

The most important thing when it comes to feeding a horse is to do a proper forage analysis and then calculate a feed state for each individual horse, depending on the age and how much the horse is ridden and trained.

Does horse insurance cover dental treatment?

Previous article

How to introduce a new cat

Next article

Fur-eating lice in horses

Related guides and advice

Follow us

  • Cookie policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • UK tax policy
  • Terms and conditions
  • Modern slavery statement

For UK customers:
Agria Pet Insurance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Financial Services Register Number 496160. Agria Pet Insurance Ltd is registered and incorporated in England and Wales with registered number 04258783. Registered office: First Floor, Blue Leanie, Walton Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP21 7QW. Agria insurance policies are underwritten by Agria Försäkring who is authorised and regulated by the Prudential Regulatory Authority and Financial Conduct Authority.

For Jersey customers:
Agria Pet Insurance Ltd is regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC). Ref: 0001498. Registered office: As detailed above.

For Guernsey customers:
Clegg Gifford Channel Islands Limited is licensed by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission. Ref: 2722221. Registered office: Admiral House, Place Du Commerce, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 2AT.

© 2024 Agria Pet Insurance Ltd. All Rights Reserved.