The activity levels of most pleasure horses–those ridden mainly at the walk with some trotting and slow cantering a few times a week–use little more energy than the horse expends roaming the pasture. These horses can most likely meet the slight increases in their energy needs simply by grazing a little more. However, horses in more strenuous activities will burn more calories than they can consume from forage alone; they need supplemental concentrates–either grain or pelleted or extruded feeds–in addition to their forage.
The following shows the percentage of concentrates needed in the total ration for horses in various levels of activity. Keep in mind that these percentages are based on the horse’s total diet by weight:
Horses who are not ridden at all or ridden lightly once or twice a week: 0% concentrates, 100% forage.
Horses ridden three or more times a week in preparation for active trail riding or as light training for local competition: No more than 25% concentrates.
Horses ridden almost daily in a structured training program with athletic goals. This group includes reining horses, jumpers and horses being conditioned for racing: No more than 40% concentrates.
These rare horses train and perform at the limits of their physical capabilities. Racehorses and endurance horses fall into this category: No more than 50% concentrates.
This article originally accompanied the article “Feed Your Horse Right” in the January 2006 issue of EQUUS magazine.