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Horses - Diet and Nutrition/increase concentrates or forage as body weight gain


hello ma'am. i read an article about feeding a horse by its body weight and the formula is (body weight X 2.5)/100. in that 30% should be concentrates and 70% forage. so, my question is. if the body weight increases, should i increase concentrates or forage ratio?

Hello Caine,

Thank you for your question.  There is no minimum amount of grain that a horse needs to have in their diet, nor is there a set grain to forage ratio.  When formulating a ration for horses, there are some generalizations about how much a horse will eat in a day.  Generally, horses are estimated to consume anywhere from 1.5-3% of their body weight in dry matter daily, assuming an average energy density of the dry matter.  But really, a horse eats to meet its energy requirement, and the dry matter intake ranges are assuming average to high quality (in terms of energy density) feeds.  A horse doing no work would consumer 1.5% of its body weight in dry matter provided it is eating moderate quality feed.  However, the same horse would eat more dry matter daily if eating low energy feed, and more if eating high energy feeds. Horses light work eat approximately 2% body weight in dry matter, moderate work eat 2.5% and heavy work 3% assuming average energy density of the feed.

If you want to try and formulate a ration for your horse, you need to determine its body weight, workload and in turn its daily energy requirements.  Then you figure out what the energy density of your main forage is, calculate whether or not (given its estimated daily intake) it can eat enough of that forage in a day to meet the energy requirements and if not, then figure out how much grain to add to round out the energy requirements.

Keep in mind that as a horse gains weight, its energy requirements change as does its estimated daily dry matter intake.  You will want to readjust your ration as your horse gets closer to its bodyweight/BCS goals and not necessarily always keep the same ration in place.

Thanks, Corlena

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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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