How much hay do you feed horses

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How much hay do you feed horses

This is a discussion on How much hay do you feed horses within the Horse Nutrition forums, part of the Horse Health category

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    01-01-2013, 02:36 PM
Red face How much hay do you feed horses

Hi I am new at the caring for my own horses, they have been boarded before. I have bought large hay bales as there were no small squares available and that is what they fed at the stable they were at. The large bales flake off as a small square bale does but they are large flakes of hay and I am not sure how much to give them. If anyone out there knows and uses large bales could you tell me how much each horse should be eating so I am not over feeding and going to run out of hay before the season ends. Also how important is beet pulp in the winter months, I was told by my feed store that I should put a table spoon of salt on their feed and that promotes drinking as it is like eating pretzels for them and makes them thirsty and drink more??? Thanks for anyone who has some information for me.
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    01-01-2013, 02:49 PM
How much you need to feed and whether or not you need beet pulp depends on your horses. If the horses are in good shape, the general starting guideline is 2% of the horses weight in hay per day, preferably split into two or more feedings. So, for a 1000lb horse, that's 20lbs a day, with half in the morning and half in the evening. A ration balancer (which is really just a pelleted vitamin mineral supplement) is generally a good idea to make up anything nutrition-wise the hay may be lacking.

A skinny horse may need more hay, and generally if you're trying to get them fatter, giving them all the hay they can eat is the best first step. If that's not enough, then you can start adding in beet pulp, rice bran, grain, or whatever other calorie supplement you like. If they're too fat, you can cut back on hay, but never give them less than 1% of their body weight per day (10lbs for a 1000lb horse) or you put them at risk of colic and other issues.

Yes, this means you will have to weigh your hay to figure out how many 'flakes' equal what weight. This is important because depending on the kind of hay and bale size and how tight it was baled, a flake might only weigh half a pound, or it might be more than 15 lbs!

ETA: And welcome to the forum! I was a nervous wreck when I first had to take care of my boy- it can be quite a learning curve!
Ray MacDonald and diamondgurl like this.
    01-01-2013, 02:54 PM
Frankly... I don't know. My horses have 24/7 access to a round bale. If for whatever reason I have to take them off the round bale [say the weather is icky and I have to keep it covered] I give them more than they can eat. Depending on the horse this can be a little, or a lot.

My filly, btw, breaks the 2% of body weight rule - she is about 450kg, not sure what that is in pounds, and eats a LOT more than 9kg/day. Her grain feed weighs 5kg and if I have to yard her overnight she gets a good 5-6kg of hay [or more - haven't weighed it] for just 12 hours - and STILL loses weight!
diamondgurl likes this.
    01-01-2013, 03:04 PM
BEP- The percentage idea is for the hay only- it doesn't count the grain or other feeds, so if percentage-wise she's eating 5-6kg of hay in 12 hours, that comes out to 10-12kg of hay in a day, which really isn't too much more than the 9kg. The grain is 'on top' of it, so to speak. :)

My guy eats more than the 2% too, he's closer to 3% so it's not uncommon for a horse to need more (or less), which is why it's really only a starting point, not a hard and fast rule. I try to give my guy free choice, but he doesn't always even eat the same amount from day to day, so it can be tough to make sure he doesn't run out without wasting too much sometimes.
diamondgurl likes this.
    01-01-2013, 03:13 PM
Originally Posted by Sharpie    
BEP- The percentage idea is for the hay only- it doesn't count the grain or other feeds, so if percentage-wise she's eating 5-6kg of hay in 12 hours, that comes out to 10-12kg of hay in a day, which really isn't too much more than the 9kg. The grain is 'on top' of it, so to speak. :)
Yes - but perhaps you missed the comment where she loses weight when she's yarded/on that amount of hay. It doesn't surprise me based on the size of her manure - each pile is absolutely enormous, 2 or 3 times the size of any of our other horses' manure piles - and the frequency. If I have to box her [which I did for stifle issues a couple of months ago] she needs her box mucked 3 times a day, she puts out that much poop! Guts are good and effective, she just pumps it through like it's going out of style. She IS a Thoroughbred.

Between the two of them my horses go through a 500kg round bale every 2 weeks, which breaks down to approximately 35kg/day between them, and the filly is the one that spends the most time eating hay. The gelding gets a mouthful here and there then goes back to grazing. It's VERY high quality hay, too, or I wouldn't be paying almost double the price of plain grass hay.
diamondgurl likes this.
    01-01-2013, 03:27 PM
Thanks so much for all your help! Yes it is quiet the learning curve lol but worth it as we tried three different places to board and you pay alot and the care is not given or what they say doesnt happen so hence us getting a place and doing on our own. Thanks and Happy New Year and God Bless you and yours
    01-01-2013, 03:37 PM
Green Broke
Personally, I don't go by weight. For right now I give my horses two flakes at breakfast, lunch, supper and night time. My horses eat until they are full and then will mess around with the rest so I always know if I am feeding too much or too little.
    01-01-2013, 03:44 PM
In fairness, I DON'T weigh my hay daily, nor do I weigh my other feed items. I weighed some at first to get a feel for it and so I knew what my horse was getting. As all my hay is from the same supplier and pretty consistent, I know I can just give him between a quarter and a third of a small bale at each feed and call it good now. But at first, when I'm not sure (or new hay/supplier), it's a good tool to double check things for me.

BEP- your TB sounds like a tough keeper. You're sure there are no ulcers or other issues? OUCH, you must have quite the feed bill! But you're right, some horses just don't fit the 'average' by any stretch.
    01-01-2013, 04:00 PM
I personally like my horses to have hay in front of them at all times, so when they are out I give them more. I check them in the morning, afternoon, early/late night and make sure they have hay.
    01-01-2013, 04:12 PM
Originally Posted by kmdstar    
I personally like my horses to have hay in front of them at all times, so when they are out I give them more. I check them in the morning, afternoon, early/late night and make sure they have hay.
This is how my barn was.. they'd get about five good sized flakes for the night each and typically are outside all day but get more hay if they're kept in. I always snuck Indie extra though.. she usually still had some left by the morning when it was feeding time.

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