Horses - Diet and Nutrition/Horse Feed


I'm soon buying a upcoming 3yr old standard bred gelding, he's around 14.3hh but should make over 15hh. I've only ever fed older working horses so i'm lost with what to feed him. He has been just left in a field for the last few years with no additional food provided only hay in the winter months. After i move him he will be wormed and left for a couple of days to settle but after that i'm planning to lightly back him and then turn him away for 6 months. I've read that development in relation to food in young horses can really affect their growth. I want him to grow healthy and to his maximum size, therefore i want a feed diet to complement this and one that's not too expensive if possible. My initial thoughts were along the lines of chaff, garlic and some sort of oil.

Hi Stephanie,

Thank you for your question.  Feeding growing horses properly is crucial to their long term health and sustainability as performance horses so a well thought out ration is a must.  Horses grow in a a predetermined pattern, and are designed by nature to reach over 95% of their adult size by the time they are 3 years old.  If that growth potential is lost in the first 3 years, its unlikely that you can make him 'catch up'.  What that means is that no matter how much you try to feed him now to get him to grow, its likely too late...and trying to do so is not really good for him.  Although your gelding is mostly done growing on the outside, he still has a lot of developing left to do on the inside, especially where his joints and bones are concerned.  Growth plates (at the end of his long bones) haven't closed yet and won't for a year or two.  So to ensure that he finishes developing properly its important to make sure he has adequate mineral and vitamin in his diet.  How much he needs depends on his body size and the amount of work you're going to ask him to do, and how much you need to feed as a supplement or grain depends on how much mineral is already in the forages he is eating.  You're probably best to consult a local nutritionist who can help you sample forages and choose the right supplement for your gelding.

Your gelding might not be able to get a lot taller than he already is but he still can fill out and put on muscle.  Ensure he is getting enough protein in his diet to allow for muscle development.  Make sure his diet has enough energy to maintain a moderate body condition score (4.5-5 / 10)and support the level of work you're asking him to do.  Again, how much protein and energy he needs is a function of body weight, workload and quality of your forages.  

If you can't find a nutritionist in your area, try to find a horse feed designed for either growing horses or light performance horses with a 2:1 Calcium to Phosphorous ratio, that uses fat and fibre as its energy source and contains about 14% crude protein.  Feed an amount that keeps him in a body condition of around 5/10.  This is a very basic guideline so try to find a nutritionist if you can.

Thanks, Corlena

Horses - Diet and Nutrition

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Corlena Patterson


I can help with any of your horse nutrition questions and concerns. I have been involved with horses for closing on 40 years, with a B.Sc in Animal Science and currently working on an M.Sc in Equine Science with the University of Edinburgh. I have owned my own feed store, consulted professionally as an equine nutritionist, and lectured in the fields of equine and dairy nutrition at the University level for 5 years. I have developed and currently market 'Ration-X', a ration formulation program for horses...designed for the everyday horse owner. I am happy to help in any way I can.


Experienced in developing and implementing feed programs for horses of all disciplines, creating custom horse supplements and managing inter-disciplinary equine facilities. Specialize in equine nutrition consulting.

The American Society of Equine Appraisers

'Stable Management' Handbook, Equine Canada.

M.Sc (Equine Science-current), B.Sc(Agr) Animal Science, Equine Sports Massage Therapy Certification, Farrier Certification, Equine Consultant Certification, Certified Equine Appraiser, Certified in Emergency Equine Rescue.

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