Knowing how much hay to feed a horse can be tricky, but fortunately there’s a very simple rule of thumb that you can go by to work it out. The last thing you want to do is under feed your horse, and have them skinny or over feed them and be wasting money on excess hay.
The first thing you need to know, is how much your horse weighs. There are several different ways you can find this out including:
- Taking the horse to a public weighbridge. Just take the horse out of the trailer and walk them onto the bridge to get their weight. The horse should be weighed just before they have a feed and a drink of water to make sure you get their true weight and not their weight plus what’s in their gut, which if full, can be up to 90 lbs (40kgs) more.
- Using a horse weight tape. You can usually purchase these from a good saddlery or horse feed store & you simply run them around your horse’s chest immediately behind the withers. They’re better than nothing, but the biggest problem with these is that they can be out by up to 20% depending on the make of the tape and the conformation of the horse.
- Take a rough guess…not the best option, but depending on your situation, it might work out ok. A VERY rough guide is: Ponies to approx. 13.2 hh, up to 750lb (350kg); Large Ponies/Galloways 13.2hh to 15hh, 750lb to 1,000lb (350kg to 450kg); Over 15hh, 1,000lb & up (over 450kg).
Now, to work out how much hay to feed a horse, you need to understand that a horse needs to eat between 1.5% & 3.0% of it’s body weight each day (when at rest) in dry matter. What’s dry matter?
Dry matter is horse feed without any moisture in it. Hay might seem dry, but it actually still has a bit of moisture in it – usually around 10% – so we need to take that into account.
A 900lb Arab at rest, will need:
Approx. 2.0% of 900 lb in dry matter each day – this percentage can vary between different horses.
2.0% of 900lb = 18lb of dry matter daily.
Remember, this doesn’t mean 18lb of hay, as hay has water in it. To work out how much hay the horse actually needs we:
18lb x 11% = 19.8lb hay
So to maintain condition, with no other feed, this Arab horse, would need around 20lb (9kg) of hay each day.
Now if the horse wasn’t keeping the weight on at this rate, obviously you’d have to increase it. Also, as soon as the horse starts to do any work, they’re using more energy, so will usually need some more feed to help compensate.
This should give you a close guide of how much hay to feed a horse. Obviously, you can adjust it as needed, but it gives you a good, solid base to start from!