Horses have small stomachs and short intestines, therefore, they cannot handle large amounts of grain at one time. Horses should be fed frequently, but in small amounts (3+ times daily).
Horse cannot vomit. This means that whatever a horse eats – whether it be oats, molasses, moldy hay, or rusty nails – it must go all the way through his digestive system. This inability to vomit is the most common reason colic is a big problem with horses.
A regularly worked horse might receive five to ten pounds of grain per day. More feed should obviously be given to a horse who has worked harder or to a larger horse, and less feed to a smaller horse or one who has worked less. This varies with each horse and also varies depending on the quality of the grain.
Generally speaking, give 1 pound of hay per 100 pounds of body weight. So, a 1,000 pound horse would have a minimum of 10 pounds of hay. This varies greatly, depending on the amount of work the horse is asked to do, and on the type of hay that is fed. It is best to allow horses to eat free-choice hay throughout the day to promote the health of their digestive systems.
About the Feed
Oats are standard grain feed and are usually rolled or tracked to assist digestion. Corn is also commonly found in feed mixtures, since it is a good source of energy and fat. Salt is a necessity for horses as well as humans. Approximately one to two ounces should either be added to feed (make sure the feed doesn’t already contain salt) or make available in a block form. Molasses is usually added to feed mix as flavor and a sugar source. Trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iodine are necessary for life and must be provided for in the feed.
A good, quality, commercial feed mix should contain a balanced portion of all these nutrients. With such a feed mix, the horse owner need only worry about how much and when to feed his horse – everything else is covered for him. However, you should always offer a free-choice trace mineral block and salt block in your horses stall and pasture.
Horses require from 5-15 gallons of water on an average day. 50% of an adult horse’s body is composed of water, and 80% of a foal’s body. Water can kill a horse if taken at the wrong times, so care must be taken in watering horses.
Important Points About Watering
A horse should never be given cold water after a hard, sweaty workout. The horse should be walked out first and allowed to cool down and then given water. Make sure the horse’s breathing and body temperature has returned to normal. If given water to drink after a hard, sweaty workout, it is best to allow for just a few sips, then walk the horse to cool him out more before returning to drink more water.
The best way to water a horse is to have water available at all times. This way the horse should never be so thirsty that he would gulp large amounts of cold water that his body can’t handle. When it is impossible to have water regularly available, the horse should be given water as frequently as possible. Keep in mind that a horse’s stomach can only hold about 8-17 quarts, so water and feed should be given frequently in small quantities.