Where #SeriousHorsePeople come to better understand digestive health in horses and its impact and management.

Nutrition for Horses Pt. 5: Adjusting Your Horse's Feeding Program


Understanding the Horse Factors, Diet Factors, and Feeding Factors that impact a horse’s unique nutritional needs is essential to developing a feed program that results in a healthy horse capable of performing at its best. In the final part of this series on nutrition, we’ll put all the factors together to give you the tools you need to evaluate and revise your feeding strategy with your vet or nutritionist. This series is adapted from a model produced by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Read more about the three factors in parts 1–4 of this series. Subscribe to the SUCCEED blog for ongoing health and nutrition updates.

What You Feed

In Part 2: Horse Factors of our series we helped you evaluate the factors that influence your horse’s needs, including:

  • Breed
  • Body type and weight
  • Age
  • Breeding status
  • Performance and training schedule

All of these factors influence what and how much you will feed. Once you’ve determined these factors, plug them into the National Research Council’s Animal Requirements chart to find an appropriate starting place to evaluate nutrient and energy requirements.

In Part 3: Diet Factors, we broke down the six essential nutrients for good health and where to find them. We recommend emphasizing fibrous carbs and getting a healthy balance of the other nutrients for good health. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Is my horse’s feed appropriate and safe?
  • Is he getting the necessary nutrients in the right amounts to meet his particular needs?
  • Is it meeting nutritional needs without negatively impacting digestive health?
  • What changes do I need to make to what I am feeding as a result of my evaluation?

How You Feed

In Part 4: Feeding Factors, we looked at how your feeding schedule and your horse’s environment can influence his nutrition. We recommended mimicking the natural feeding pattern of horses in the wild — slow and steady foraging — as closely as possible to achieve the best nutrition. You should be able to answer the following:

  • How close is my feeding management to the ideal?
  • Where can I make changes to make it better?
  • Where might I have to compromise due to limited time, money or resources?

Why It’s Important

Your horse’s nutrition and digestive health has the ability to impact everything. Gut health. Overall health. Behavior. Physical ability. Performance. When a horse isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, it can result in serious risks to digestive health. Even minor issues in any of the above can lead to poor nutrition that will affect behavior and performance.

Practical Steps You Can Take

While striving to meet the ideal — slow and steady ingestion of the appropriate nutrient available naturally — take steps to mitigate the factors you can control.

Review the NRC suggested minimum nutrient amounts for your horse. (Remember that these numbers will change with exercise intensity and with the change of seasons.)

Send a hay/pasture sample to your local agricultural extension to have it tested for nutritional content based on horses’ (not cattle) needs.

It may be impossible to control every single aspect of your horse’s nutrition, but by focusing on the things you can control and making sure your horse’s digestive system is as healthy as possible, you’re one step closer to a healthy, happy horse. Take the SUCCEED Challenge to see the difference for yourself.

This series was reviewed separately by two independent experts. One is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who wishes to remain anonymous. The other is Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. an equine nutritionist, writer, consultant and speaker. Dr. Getty currently serves as a panelist of the Equine Sciences Academy and formerly as contributing nutrition editor for Horse Journal.

nutrition-for-horses-coverGet Your Free Nutrition for Horses E-Book

Did you find this article helpful? Download your free copy of the Nutrition for Horses e-book and take the whole series home with you as a printable PDF to read and share at your leisure.

Register Now to Access Your Free Download:

First Name:
Last Name:
Password (twice):
Enter your desired password twice. Must be at least 8 characters long.
I am primarily:

Already a member? Login in here to access our E-Book Library.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles:

All-Around Competitor Emma Charleston’s SUCCEED Story 

Reeds, Missouri cowgirl Emma Charleston is no stranger to the rodeo world, competing since she was just 4 years old. While some people feel pulled toward specific disciplines, Emma had her heart captured by both […]

Meet Kassidy McKee, Professional Barrel Racer

Oklahoma native and barrel racer Kassidy McKee is no stranger to the world of rodeo. While most people must wait until they are 18 to hit the professional rodeo trail, Kassidy’s had a front-row seat […]

How to Feed Speed Horses

Your horse’s diet plays a pivotal role in how fast it can be and how consistently it can run at its best. If you and your horses are barrel racing, breakaway roping, or competing in […]

In Memoriam: Dr. Kenneth Hill

By John Hall I’m sad to report the passing of Dr. Ken Hill, the last of the triumvirate that developed SUCCEED. Ken was Professor of Equine Sports Physiology at Limerick University in Ireland. He ran […]

Can I Feed SUCCEED on Racing Days?

SUCCEED is a nutritional approach to managing your horse’s digestive health, including the stomach and the hindgut. It’s designed to keep your horse’s entire GI system healthy, which positively impacts many aspects of wellness as […]

Pro Rodeo Barrel Racer Sissy Winn

Texas-based WPRA barrel racer Sissy Winn is the 2021 Texas Circuit Finals Championship, and she’s already starting at the top for 2022. Her sights are set on qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo—and she’ll feed […]

SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program is a nutritional approach to managing the horse’s digestive health, including the stomach and the hindgut. Learn More

succeed veterinary formula

SUCCEED Veterinary Formula, available only from veterinarians, is an advanced version of SUCCEED and comes backed by the SUCCEED Healthy Gut Commitment. Learn More