Good lord this is a hard one. Once again remember the incomparably smart words of my better half:
“I’m a firm believer in whatever works….”
Here’s the basic breakdown:
How much food? ~2% of the horse’s body weight per day in total feed.
What kind? This is where it really gets sticky. But basically for a plain ol’ trail horse alfalfa is fine. You don’t need much more than that.
What about grass, timothy, three-way? What about pellets? What about bran, beet pulp, feed additives, supplements and oils?!
Ok, settle down. If you are new and starting out with a horse, first things first. Get a baseline. Make a decision, any decision and see how it works … over time. Then adjust little by little to get your optimal diet. Most horses will have a diet they are coming in with. Some are 20 lbs grass hay only, some are 1/2 alfalfa & 1/2 grass, some are alfalfa and pellets, some are three-way and grass in the morning, alfalfa in the afternoon and pellets in the evening with a bran mash with carrots and corn syrup.
Keep It Simple Stupid
First things first, get them down to a very simple routine. 4 flakes of alfalfa a day for example. Now live with that for a while.
Now get a scale, and this is what I mean by get a scale:
Now get a weight tape, and this is what I mean by weight tape:
Now use the weight tape, and this is what I mean by use the weight tape:
Now, let’s do some calculations…and the weight of your horse is?
Take the horse’s weight and multiply by .02 and you will get about the total feed that should be fed to your horse daily in weight.
1,052 lbs X .02 = 21.04 lbs of feed per day
Remember the scale? This is how you’ll keep track of how much you’re feeding the dang thing. Whenever you feed your horse hay or grain, weigh it first. Don’t count on a bale of hay always weighing the same or a flake always being the same. Here’s a great article All Flakes of Hay are Not Created Equal about the weight of hay bales and how they aren’t always the same. Weigh the hay, weigh the grain, weigh it all! Then you’ll know how much you’re really feeding. And you’ll know over time how it’s working and how to change it if it’s not.
Remember it’s 21.04 lbs of feed. That means 21.04 lbs of total feed. 21 lbs of hay or 15 lbs of hay and 6 lbs of grain or any combination that works for you and your horse.
Below are a few resources for more information about feeding your horse. Just remember – K.I.S.S. You’ll thank me for it.