How many calories does your horse get per day?

I had a question this week about how to calculate the amount of fat that feeding flax seed will add to your horse’s diet. Horses tolerate fat very well, despite the fact that horses don’t have gall bladders, they digest fat very efficiently in their small intestines.

Now with Freedom, I’ve never worried about feeding him too many calories . . . rather I’ve worked on trying to get enough calories into him to hold his weight without making him too hot to ride. So, I’ve never given too much thought to the amount of fat in his diet, other than to choose the higher fat options as it allows me to keep weight on him without feeding too much starch and sugar.

However, this question piqued my curiosity so, here’s an analysis of Freedom’s current diet.

Let’s start with the baseline of calories needed and see how his diet stacks up. The average horse in low work (maintenance level) requires about 15,000 calories per day. Bump that up to moderate work and that rises to 25,000 calories/day. Freedom is somewhere in the middle. He gets ridden 4-5 times per week for about 1.5 hours each time. During hunt season, he is definitely in moderate work.

Hay should be the starting point of any diet. Freedom gets about 22 lbs of grass hay per day. Timothy hay is about 800 calories per pound and about 2% fat, so that adds 17,500 calories/day and 350 calories from fat.

His base feed is Triple Crown Senior which is 1,546 calories/pound. I feed 4.4 pounds/day or 6,802 calories. It has a guaranteed analysis of 10% fat so that gives him 680 calories from fat.

He gets 1/2 pound of Enrich 32 ration balancer, which is 750 calories and is 5% fat. So that adds 37.5 calories from fat.

I feed two cups of whole flax seed/day. That adds 1,444 calories — 877 from fat. Flax is a good source of fat and packs a lot of calories into a small amount (you don’t have to feed as much as two cups per day of flax to see a lot of the health benefits).

I feed 2.5 pounds of alfalfa pellets per day which is about 2,500 calories, (72.5 from fat)

So, how does that all add up?

I’m actually surprised that Freedom is getting quite than many calories per day as he’s only just carrying enough weight. I intend increase his Triple Crown Senior during hunting season. All I can say is that I wish I had his metabolism!

2 thoughts on “How many calories does your horse get per day?

  1. Hi, you did a great post here. I’m also wondering how many calories my horses did get everyday. And you’re right, they really are eating very fast and digest food well. I’m also worried sometimes if I’ve given him the proper food. It might affect his training. Good thing you have your analysis on your horse’s diet. This will give me idea for my horse’s diet too.

  2. It gets difficult when you are boarding especially at an old fashioned barn. Nina gets alfalfa and grass hay but she is fed by the ‘flake’ so she gets different amounts everyday. I was feeding about 4,000 calories in Nutrena senior and she was losing weight. I changed things around and she now gets about 6,500 calories from me in soaked beet pulp, alfalfa pellets and Amplify and she is finally gaining a little weight. She is not being ridden right now but she gets about 30-40 minutes a day of lunging or tearing around in one of the turnouts. When she goes back into real work I will have to up the calories and right now I am undecided between offering dry alfalfa pellets or a senior food. I don’t think I can offer anymore soaked feed, she eats it all now and there is a limit to how much I want her to eat in one (rather long) meal.
    The calorie needs really don’t match what she is eating or what your horse is eating. I think that ‘not in work’ must really mean standing still 24/7.

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