Feeding and assessing how much we feed our horses comes with practice and experience. It helps to understand some basic concepts that the horse, when left to his own devices in a field will need. When he is in a field and not working he will eat 100% bulk which is hay or grass. In this day and age it is possible to give some horses a handful of a balancer with some chaff (bulk) so that they are getting all the nutrients they need to survive. But, if your horse is a good doer, you may not need anything extra. You can look at the rules of feeding one of my previous posts to help with this.
When you start to work your horse he will need some of the 100% total intake as hard/concentrate food. As it says in the rules of feeding, each horse is an individual and what is right for one horse may not be so for another of similar height and build.
As each horse or pony is an individual and needs to be observed daily to check his condition and behavior. A horse eating good grass and/or good hay may well be able to undertake this work without any hard feed at all. If he needs any hard feed it may only be 10% of his total food intake.
A horse of 16hh may well eat a total of about 30lbs of food a day (13.6kg). The best way to work out how much food in total a horse needs daily is to weigh him. A horse eats approximately 2.5% of his body weight per day. There are several weigh tapes on the market and different formulae you can use as well.
Another way is to remember the following figures as they give you an approximate figures:
16 hh – 30lbs (13.6 kg)
15 hh – 26 lbs (11.7 kg)
14 hh – 22 lbs (9.9 kg)
13 hh – 18 lbs (8.1 kg)
12 hh – 14 lbs (6.3 kg)
These figures are only a rough guild but will give a basis to work from and along with the rules of feeding will help you think about what you need to consider.
If we are going to feed the 16 hh in light work he would need 10% hard food and 90% bulk which would mean he would receive 3 lbs (1.35 kg) of hard food and 27lbs (12.24 kg) of bulk (hay and/or grass).
It would be better to split the feed into two feeds as a horse is a trickle feeder and if the horse is in a stable split the hay into three hay nets with the largest one at night. Also, hopefully the horse would go out in the day for a few hours so, this would add to the roughage part of his diet and it could be possible for some horses to need a little more hard feed up to 15% but, never more for light work.
Most horses would be find on horse and pony nuts or a ‘complete’ feed which has all the vitamins and minerals in. A native pony in light work will probably not need any concentrate feed for most of the year. In spring and summer he might need restricted grazing so that he does not get laminitis or any other metabolic issues.
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