Here’s what I feed my horse

Freedom is a 16.1 TB gelding.
Freedom is a 16.1 TB gelding.

After posting yesterday’s article on workload and nutrition, I was asked what I feed my horse.

I’ve spent some time working with a nutritionist and reading about equine nutrition, as well investing in some trial and error. Here’s what’s currently working for me.

My Horse: Freedom on the Wind is an 11 year old TB gelding. He’s about 16.1 with a lot of bone. He weighs in around 1200 pounds. He’s an anxious horse that cribs and weaves when confined. He does better with 24/7 turnout but still can get very worried. When I first got him, he seemed like a perpetual motion machine but over the past few years he’s settled a lot.

His workload: Light to medium. I ride Freedom 5-6 days per week. Our rides range from slow hacks with lots of walking to foxhunts. I usually ride between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.

His feed regime: Because Freedom has all the characteristics of a horse prone to ulcers, I’ve tried to manage his health through diet and turnout. He’s only in a stall long enough to eat (in any weather!) and he gets free choice grass hay. Right now we have some decent grass and he has access to that for about 4 hours per day. The rest of his turnout is on dirt.

His a.m. feed consists of:

  • 1 quart of alfalfa pellets (alfalfa helps prevent and cure ulcers). A quart weighs about 1.25 pounds.
  • 1.5 pounds of Purina Enrich 32, which is a ration balancer.
  • 1/2 serving of a multi-vitamin to round out the nutrition in the ration balancer.
  • 4 ounces of flax seed.
  • 1.5 cups of rice bran pellets.
  • Cosequin ASU
  • Hoof supplement

(I generally buy my multivitamin and hoof supplement off the clearance shelf at SmartPak so they change every few months).

His p.m. feed includes:

  • 2 lbs (measured dry) of alfalfa/timothy hay cubes soaked
  • 1.5 cups of rice bran pellets

My guess is that he eats between 22-25 pounds of hay per day. I generally feed hay three times a day and he and his pasture mate clean it up.

Over the winter he looked a little ribby so I added some crimped oats (1 quart a.m./p.m.) but I decided to try adding fat to his diet instead (stabilized rice bran) and so far that’s doing the trick.

Kroni was a 16.2 Trakehner.
Kroni was a 16.2 Trakehner.

I came to this regime over time as I saw how much better my horses did without concentrate. When I first brought my Trakehner gelding, Kroni, to the co-op barn where I am now, he had been fed 7 quarts of 14% pellets per day and 1 quart of oats (at a boarding facility where hay was quite limited). It seemed like a lot of concentrate to me so I contacted a nutritionist who came to the barn and evaluated my horse. Eventually I moved him to a diet of a ration balancer and hay. He was a pretty easy keeper so if I kept him on a mostly forage diet he got too fat if I fed him enough of a complete feed to cover his nutritional needs. As it was, he probably weighed about 1350 pounds. He was a tank of a horse! Moving him to a ration balancer also increased his endurance. I probably hadn’t been feeding him enough nutrition while I was trying to keep him from gaining weight.

When Freedom came to me he looked pretty scrawny. He had been adopted from CANTER New England and it hadn’t worked out. I suspect he must have been driven off most of the

When I first got him, Freedom looked pretty scrawny and needed more calories.
When I first got him, Freedom looked pretty scrawny and needed more calories.

hay by other horses. He spent about 10 days with another foster home before he came to me and they were feeding him seven quarts of Purina Strategy a day to help put weight on him. That’s 8 3/4 pounds per day. I cut him back to 6 quarts pretty quickly and started feeding him more hay.  He was pretty hot on that diet so I tried Ultium which has a lower starch content and more fat. Even on that he had more energy than we needed so over time I moved him to his current diet.

Right now he has enough energy to do his job, holds his weight well and is about as calm as he’s ever going to be!

6 thoughts on “Here’s what I feed my horse

  1. Thanks! I’m always curious about what people feed. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about feeds. A lot of people I know now feed Safe Choice. My vet told me my easy keeper is fine on grass and some oats (in the summer) or grass hay, oats, and a little sweet feed (in winter). I’ve added a joint supplement and a coat supplement as well. Still, I’d love to meet with an equine nutritionist.

    I’m glad to find someone who doesn’t feed Safe Choice. When you say “ration balancer” are you referring to something like Barn Bag?

  2. What a careful and exemplary job you have done with your horses. The difference, before and after, in Freedom is astounding. He is one gorgeous boy! Looks quite athletic and very well muscled. Hard to understand why he would ever be a rescue. (though sadly I do get it)

    The feed info is so interesting…would love to listen to an Equine Nutritionist talk about nutritional needs and performance.

    1. Thanks, Jane. Freedom has really grown into himself and filled out more than I anticipated. However, he was never a rescue. He was one of the lucky racehorses. He was donated to CANTER New England at the end of his racing career by owners who wanted him to find a second career. When his first adoption didn’t work out, the director of CANTER went and got him (she drove down to NC) and suggested that I foster him. Of course her evil plan was that I would keep him — and it worked.

      1. Good heavens, since he isn’t a rescue in the before pic , you must have worked your tushy off to get the calories on him! Looking at his muscling and condition now, that was quite a feat. So tricky getting the calories to stay ON while building up muscle. Lucky Freedom. Nice, nice work! And thank goodness he was one of the lucky ones donated. I’m liking your sneaky director and her evil plan. 🙂

  3. Please… Dont remove this article lol. I know its been here for ages but ive only just seen it now.

    I need this article like you wouldnt imagine.

    I just bought a 4yo 15.2hh TB gelding today from a riding school. He only got feed once slice of grass hay a day, along with chaff, yearling mix, and oats. They Pretty much had no grass.
    He looks exactly like freedom in his before photo, scrawny, dead to the world, bones.

    Im going to try turn his usual feed into the one you feed freedom, it looks like it works wonders, without heating the horse up!

    Thankyou for this, its going to help me alot.

  4. i have a really old thoroughbred and he seems to always drop weight in winter so i feed him gumnuts it seems to help alot even for young horses

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