General and Seasonal Equine Feeding Guidelines

a mare and foal eating from grain tubs in a pasture

Feeding our horses is an important part of daily management.  You can buy the most expensive feed on the market and still have poor results if basic feeding management principles are not adhered to.  Following these feeding guidelines will help ensure your horse receives the most from the feed you provide and maintains good health and performance.


1. Divide Feed into Multiple Feedings

  • Minimum of Two Equal Feedings: Splitting the daily ration into at least two equal feedings helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and promotes digestive health.
  • Limit Grain Per Feeding: Never feed more than 0.5 lbs of grain per 100 lbs of body weight in a single feeding. If a horse requires more feed to maintain body condition, consider adding a third feeding.
  • Alternative to Excess Grain: Instead of increasing grain, consider adding a high-energy fat supplement to meet the horse’s caloric needs without risking digestive upset.


2. Tailor Grain Amounts to Individual Needs

  • Forage Quality and Availability: The quantity of grain fed will vary based on the quality and availability of forage. High-quality forage can reduce the need for additional grain.
  • Horse-Specific Factors: Adjust grain amounts based on the horse’s weight, body condition, performance level, metabolism, and age. Active horses or those with higher metabolic rates may require more grain, while easy keepers may need less. 


Horse grazing lush grass

3. Implement Dietary Changes Gradually

  • Slow Transition: Any changes to a horse’s diet should be made gradually over 10-14 days. Sudden changes can disrupt the digestive system and lead to colic or other issues.
  • Monitor Adjustments: Keep an eye on the horse’s response to feed program changes and adjust as necessary to ensure continued health and performance.


4. Address Special Feeding Needs

  • Dental Issues or Swallowing Difficulties: For horses with dental problems or trouble swallowing, use feed that can be soaked in water. This makes it easier for the horse to chew and digest.
  • Soaking Feeds: Products like beet pulp or specially formulated senior feeds can be soaked to create a mash, which is easier for horses with dental issues to consume.


5. Supplementation for Balanced Nutrition

  • Inadequate Concentrated Feed: If feeding less than the daily recommended amount of a concentrated feed, consult with an equine nutrition specialist to determine appropriate supplements.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Supplements can help meet the horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements, ensuring a balanced diet even when feeding less grain or boosting minerals like electrolytes when lost through stress or sweat.


Horse eating grain from a bucket

Additional Tips

  • Monitor Body Condition: Regularly assess your horse’s body condition score (BCS) to ensure they are maintaining an appropriate weight. BCS evaluates the fat cover over areas of the body.
  • Regular Dental Check-Ups: Schedule regular dental exams to prevent and address any issues that could affect feeding and digestion.  A sign of dental issues is a horse that drops a lot of feed, drools while chewing or passes an excessive amount of whole undigested grains.
  • Hydration: Ensure continuous access to clean, fresh water. Adequate hydration is essential for digestion and overall health.


Seasonal Feeding Challenges and Tips



  • Transition to Pasture: Gradually introduce horses to lush spring pastures to prevent digestive upset and laminitis. Start with short grazing periods and gradually increase the time spent on pasture.
  • Monitor Weight and Condition: Spring grass can be rich and high in sugars, so keep an eye on the horse’s weight and condition to prevent overfeeding or metabolic issues from developing.


  • Hydration and Electrolytes: Ensure ample water supply, as horses drink more in hot weather. Provide electrolyte supplements if necessary, especially for horses in heavy work. Providing salt and mineral blocks for grazing horses allow horses to rebalance their micronutrient levels.
  • Grazing Management: Summer pastures can become dry and less nutritious as our cool season grasses go into a summer dormancy period. Supplement with quality hay if pasture quality declines. Avoid grazing during the hottest parts of the day to reduce heat stress.


  • Fall Grazing Adjustments: When nights cool grass gows quickly. Lush pasture in early fall is high in carbohydrates similar to spring pastures. Adjust grain accordingly.
  • Late Fall Transition to Hay: As pasture growth slows, gradually increase hay in the diet to ensure a smooth transition from fresh forage. Monitor forage quality and nutrient content, considering supplementation if necessary.
  • Weight Management: Assess body condition going into winter. Horses should have adequate body fat reserves to help insulate against the cold.


  • Increased Forage Intake: Horses require more forage in winter to generate body heat through digestion. Increase hay rations to meet this need and provide hay in multiple feedings to encourage continuous eating and prevent boredom.
  • Warm Water: Ensure water troughs are free of ice and offer slightly warm water to encourage drinking, preventing dehydration and colic.
  • Supplementation: Consider adding vitamin and mineral supplements to compensate for any deficiencies in stored forage. Grain or pelleted feeds may be necessary for horses with higher energy needs, such as those in work or with difficulty maintaining weight.


By following these guidelines and adapting to seasonal changes, you can provide your horse with a diet that supports its health, performance, and well-being throughout the year. For specific advice tailored to your horse’s needs, ask a Mill expert. The Mill hs store staff that can help you find the most suitable feed for your horses and nutrition consulting services are available with our Mill equine experts Michelle - or Kelley -

Girl & horse in field


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