Horseback Riding Training

A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Feeding


Feeding a horse doesn’t have to be complicated for the beginner to horseback riding training. Follow these easy guidelines and it will be less daunting.

Start by Keeping Things Normal

If your horse is new, ask the previous owner what feed he is on and stick with that initially. Equine digestive systems are sensitive, so don’t change your horse’s diet suddenly.

Basic Rules of Feeding

• Feed small amounts at regular intervals

• Feed good quality rations

• Horses love routine: feed at the same time every day

• Don’t feed your horse immediately before or after exercise: a good rule of thumb is to wait an hour after feeding before riding, and feed at least half an hour after riding

• Make clean, fresh water available at all times

What to Feed

For the average owner the horse’s nutritional needs are met by three components: grass, hay and some form of concentrated feed.

Grass and Hay: Horses at grass all day need little hay during the spring and summer months. As the year wears on, the grass loses its nutritional value, and more hay is needed to supplement it.

Concentrates: These are balanced mixes comprising all the ingredients your horse needs to stay healthy, and they come in different energy levels. There is a senior mix for the older horse - the ideal animal for you in your early days of horseback riding training.

Talk to your feed merchant about the best feed brands, and consider taking a horse riding course on stable management to increase your knowledge about equine nutrition.

The Aim of Feeding

You feed your horse so he:

(a) has enough – yet not too much – energy for his work load and

(b) keeps in good condition.

For your purposes as a beginner rider, your horse should have a shiny coat, bright eyes and a light covering of flesh on his ribs. This is a rough guide to start you off, and over time you’ll get a better idea of what your horse’s optimum condition is.

Amounts to Feed

The amount and ratio of feed stuffs vary depending on his breed, temperament, weight and workload. But here is a simple, time-honored ratio:

• A resting horse is on 100% hay:

• in light work he’s on 75% hay and 25% concentrates

• in medium work he’ll eat 60% hay and 40% concentrates.

‘Light’ work includes daily trail rides or light schooling, and applies to someone relatively new to horseback riding training. Also, your horse won’t be working during his first week after arrival (see the article Bringing Baby Home: Acclimatizing Your New Horse) so he won’t need much hard feed.

A horse eats about 2.5% of his body weight a day. Use a weight tape (available at tack stores) to measure your horse’s poundage, and feed him accordingly. Measure him every two weeks to find out whether he’s losing or gaining weight.

Two feeding examples are:

• A 16 hand horse, weighing around 1100 lbs, needs 26.5 lbs of dry matter (hay and concentrates combined) a day.

• A 15 hand horse, weighing around 920 lbs, needs 22 lbs a day.

This intake would be split 75:25 hay to concentrates for your horse.

If you need to change your horse’s feed, do so over a period of 7 – 10 days. For more energy, give a higher energy feed, not more of the same feed.

Feeding horses correctly involves trial and error, but if you use the above guidelines your horse will stay in good shape while you develop the optimum feeding plan for him.



Read more topics at the Horse Riding Resources page.


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