The Importance of Forage for Horses: Why Every Horse Owner Needs to Take This Seriously

When you visit Leighton Farm, the home of Thoroughbred Placement Resources, you will notice how relaxed and healthy all of the horses are. Our feeding program has a substantial impact on giving the horses a sense of well-being. A large component is the amount of forage our horses have access to.

As a horseman with over 40 years of experience, I have seen countless horses, and one thing that stands true is that forage is of the utmost importance. Horses are grazing animals by nature, and they require a good quantity of forage every day. In fact, even if your horse is not working, they must still consume at least 1% of their body weight in forage every day to maintain good health.

In this blog post, I will explain why forage is essential for horses’ health and why every horse owner needs to understand this important aspect of equine care. Read on for everything you need to know about the importance of forage for horses.

  1. Digestive Health: The Equine digestive system is delicate and complex. The horse’s gut is designed to process small amounts of food throughout the day, and their digestive system is more efficient when they receive low-quality but high-fiber diets. This is why forage is so important for horses. Hay and grass are rich in fiber, and they help to keep the horse’s digestive system functioning smoothly. In contrast, grain is low in fiber and can lead to digestive problems such as colic and ulcers.
  2. Nutrient Supply: Forage is also an important source of nutrients for horses. Hay and grass contain vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that are essential for a horse’s good health. These nutrients are absorbed slowly when the horse eats forage over an extended period, allowing the body to digest and soak up all the necessary nutrients.
  3. Preventing Boredom & Anxiety: Grazing is a natural behavior of horses, and forage is an important part of this grazing behavior. Horses can quickly become bored and anxious when removed from routine grazing and fed concentrates instead. Boredom leads to stereotypies such as weaving, pacing, and cribbing, all of which can be prevented by providing forage to the horse.
  4. Weight Management: Forage is also essential for weight management. If a horse is overweight, feeding hay instead of grain-based concentrates can help the horse to achieve a good weight gradually. Horses that are overweight are more prone to problems such as laminitis, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and joint problems, as well as other complications. Regularly allowing a horse to consume forage in the form of hay or grass plays its part in maintaining a healthy weight.
  5. Dental Health: Chewing forage also helps keep a horse’s teeth in good condition. As horses eat, they naturally grind down their teeth by chewing the hay or grass. Horse’s grinding action also helps to stimulate blood flow to the gums and teeth, keeping them strong and healthy.

In conclusion, the importance of forage for horses cannot be overstated, and every horse owner needs to take this seriously. Forage helps maintain good digestive, mental, and dental health and is an essential part of every horse’s diet. Remember, every horse, regardless of how hard or lightly they work, is a grazing animal at heart, and they require fresh hay, haylage, or grass to thrive. When you make feeding and providing forage for your horse a priority, you will notice a happier, healthier, and more contented equine.

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  1. What do you say about a 33 year old horse, who is not given any hay or forage.
    He receives soaked hay pellets 2 times in am and 2 times in afternoon. He finishes eating it up in 20 minutes. After that he receives nothing until 13 hours later. In winter he is stalled with no hay.
    He is a therapeutic horse and has about 4 lessons a day.
    I asked the staff but they refuse to answer why this is being done.

    Is there somewhere or someone that I can contact about this situation.
    It bothers me so much.
    Thank you

    • You have a good heart and common sense. It bothers me a 33 year old horse is being ridden four times a day. He should have access to hay at all times. It would be hard if not impossible to find a vet who would agree with the way they are caring for that horse. Sadly, unless he’s starving, there is little we can do about it. There is a very fancy farm in my area and they put hardly any bedding in the stalls and ration out two flakes of hay per horse per day. I don’t understand it. Under the law, horses are possessions. Some lose the owner lottery.