Basic tips for a good feeding

First of all we must be aware that a good diet will not work miracles, but it is essential for a horse in order to demonstrate its genetic potential and reach its highest performance, either in sports or reproduction. A high quality diet and its correct management will definitely help to prevent diseases.

There is not a magic formula to set the optimal amount of food per day for horses, as they are individual living beings. However, there are basic rules and management advice that we can follow.


Horses are herbivores and their digestive system is designed to ingest large amounts of long fiber. For this reason a horseˋs diet must be based on a good grass and/or quality fodder. It should also be clear that feed for horses, by definition, must be supplementary to grass and fodder.

Stabling, seasons, geography, location and other conditions prevent horses from having total or permanent access to pastures. Due to this fact, the use of alternative fiber sources such as silage and fodder is essential:

  • Base fodders are those that can be supplied at horse`s free disposal.
  • Complementary fodders are rich in protein, so their use must be controlled as not to unbalance the diet .

Canterwalk does not consider straw as a fodder due to its low nutritional profile and its high level of lignin.

The highest quality fodders are those produced before the plant reaches maturation, as at that exact moment they contain less lignin, which is a very difficult fiber to digest.

A good fodder must be greenish, have soft touch and pleasant smell. When it comes from cereals we should be able to see the seed, which must have a soft consistency and still long shape, and must not fall off the pod. If these requirements are not fulfilled we shall not use that fodder, just as if contains dust or have a moldy appearance.

A yellowish fodder, with round and hard-touch seeds and many ligneous parts, means the plant has been picked at its maximum maturation point. We can even consider it expired when there is no presence of seeds. Most likely, these fodders have a high level of lignin and, therefore, are not interesting from a nutritional point of view.


The way to calculate the optimal daily food amount is based on the horse live weight (LW *). Therefore, the first thing to do is find out the weight of our horse.

As a general rule Canterwalk recommends an ad libitum base fodder (free disposal). In any case, the minimum amount of hay that a horse should ingest per day should be equivalent of the 1.5% of its LW.

The quantity and type of feed is also calculated on the LW, and ranges from 0.15% to 1%, never exceeding 1.5% and depending on:

  • Type of concentrate
  • Horse body condition
  • Age
  • Type of activity
  • Workload
  • Horse character
  • Reproductive status
  • Season
  • Pastures or fodders quality

At Canterwalk we always recommend dividing the amount of feed into, at least, 3 daily rations, and supplying the fodder in advance.

The concentrated feed rationing can be distributed in 3 doses (or more), equal in quantity; however, regarding fodder we recommend providing between 25% to 30% of the total daily amount in the morning and noon and leaving the remaining 40% -50% for the night.

Food amount must always be calculated on the weight (Kg), not on the volume.

Being conscientious with the deparasiting program is very important, as well as with horse's teeth condition, since it greatly influences its digestive system.

As a general rule, the following table can be used as a guideline about total food quantities for horses according to their productive status, body condition, activity load and LW.

  Horseˋs live weight (kgs) % total daily food over LW Total daily forage intake (kgs) Feed with balancers (kgs)
Overweight 200 1,7 3 0,32
300 1,7 4,5 0,48
400 1,7 6 0,64
500 1,7 7,5 0,8
600 1,7 9 0,96
700 1,7 10,5 1,12
800 1,7 12 1,28
  Horseˋs live weight (kgs) % total daily food over LW Total daily forage intake (kgs) Concentrated feed (kgs)
Maintenance of pregnant mares (1-8 months). Light work 200 2 3 1
300 2 4,5 1,5
400 2 6 2
500 2 7,5 2,5
600 2 9 3
700 2 10,5 3,5
800 2 12 4
  Horseˋs live weight (kgs) % total daily food over LW Total daily forage intake (kgs) Concentrated feed (kgs)
Pregnant mares(9-11 months) Medium work 200 2,25 3 1,5
300 2,25 4,5 2,25
400 2,25 6 3
500 2,25 7,5 3,75
600 2,25 9 4,5
700 2,25 10,5 5,25
800 2,25 12 6
  Horseˋs live weight (kgs) % total daily food over LW Total daily forage intake (kgs) Concentrated feed (kgs)
Weight gain/ Intensive work/ Nursing mares/ Mating stallions 200 2,5 3 2
300 2,5 4,5 3
400 2,5 6 4
500 2,5 7,5 5
600 2,5 9 6
700 2,5 10,5 7
800 2,5 12 8

Determinants that can change feed quantity:

  • Season or geographical location (depending on the weather and climate).
  • Horse`s age (foals or elder horses will need a specific dosage).
  • Pastures and forages quality.

Condicionantes que hacen variar el tipo de pienso::

  • Type of activity (discipline)
  • Horse character
  • How to calculate your horseˋs weight (LW)?

    LW calculation according to the INRA Method (National Institute of Agronomic Research of France).


    * PT: Measure the thoracic perimeter at the level of the 9th rib (just behind the cross in cm).

    * HC: Measure the height to the cross from the ground.