• Good nutrition is essential for healthy horses.  Horses need good quality protein which is digestible to have healthy hoof walls and a healthy hair coat, skin and muscles. Not all protein in commercially available feeds is digestible protein. Read ingredient labels and choose wisely.


  • Equines have a unique digestive track which is intended to digest long fiber forage.  Fiber is required for the horse to have a healthy digestive tract as well as satisfying behavioral needs. The horse’s digestive tract is not intended to digest grains, including corn.


  • By nature, horses are nomadic and prior to domestication traveled many miles looking for food and water.  Because of this, their digestive system is designed to digest small amounts of feed on a continuous basis for about 16 hours per day.   To facilitate digestion of this continuous intake, the horse secretes acid into the stomach continuously.  If the horse does not have food in its stomach, this acid reacts with the stomach lining in a way that may result in ulcers.  The healthiest situation results when a horse is allowed access to forage 24/7, either in the form of grass or hay.  If a horse must be confined, it’s best to make hay available via slow feed hay nets made of soft material.  Caution is advised using hay nets with shod horses.  As much as we can do to simulate the way nature intended horses to eat will go a long way to improved physical as well as emotional health in our domestic horse population.


  • Today’s soils are often depleted of  vitamins and minerals horses need.  A good quality vitamin/mineral supplement is often essential for horses on grass pasture and hay.  If you feed a commercial feed which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, you need to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to ensure the horse gets enough feed to adequately provide the vitamin/mineral amounts on the label.  In some cases, this may result in more feed than the horse needs to maintain an optimal weight. Consider other alternatives if this is the case.


  • Always ensure your horse has salt available as well as clean fresh drinking water. If you use a hose to deliver drinking water, obtain a lead free hose.


  • Sugars and cereal grains high in carbohydrates (such as oats, barley and corn) present an unhealthy situation for the horse. (This includes feedstuffs as well as grasses which are high in sugar and carbohydrate).  For optimal metabolic health, ensure your horse has a diet containing less than 12-14% non-structured carbohydrates (NSC).  Problems can also occur when low fiber diets are fed, particularly when high levels of starch of part of the horse’s diet.


  • Avoid overfeeding your horse.  Increased weight on a horse places them at risk for metabolic health issues which are often manifested initially as hoof issues.  Too many domestic horses are overweight.


  • As grasses mature, the lignan content increases.  This increase in lignan results in decreased digestibility of the plant.  More mature, or more stemy grass/hay will offer less nutritional value for the horse.  In cases of heavy horses, this may be desirable.


  • Parasites adversely affect digestive function, so adequate parasite control will improve your horse’s health.

Horses-with-hay-nets_feature                                                                 Barefoot horses eating from slow feed hay nets placed on the ground so they can eat with their heads in a natural grazing position.