What do horses eat

Horses and humans have had a relationship since ancient times. It was during the 3000 BC horses were domesticated. There is only one species of horse that is domesticated and around 400 other species that are in existence. As you might know horses are used for several purposes from entertainment, sports, recreation, work etc. Historically they were used for war purposes. The dietary and habitat requirements of a horse in captive and in the wild are different and they both survive in different ways.

Horses are well-built animals weighing from 120 to 2,200 lbs and a height of 30 to 69 inches. Horses generally drink about 10 to 12 US gallons of water per day. The saliva secreted by the horse makes it easy for the grains and forages to be digested in their mouth to form a moist bolus that can then be easily swallowed. Horses have a unique digestive system that requires a high fiber diet that is consumed in small quantities over a long period of time.

What do horses like to eat?

Horses absorb most of their nutrition from food supply like hay, forages and grass. Nutritionists always recommend forages as this provides the essential nutrients and does not over feed them. A sufficient amount of carbohydrate level in the forages can provide the horses with the energy they require. Food items like corn, barley and oats have soluble carbohydrates. Forages constitute between 8 to 30 % of soluble carbohydrates. Beet pulp is another source of a domesticated horse’s diet. The pulp is soaked in water for around 4 hours until it becomes more palatable. Apart from forages and beet pulp, proteins can be obtained from food supply like Alfalfa and legumes in hay. They are important for the muscle growth, hormone development, hooves and hair cells. There are many commercially available vitamin and mineral supplements for horses. They are vital for good functioning of the skeleton, nerves and muscles.

Horses generally prefer to be in the open grass lands. What do wild horses eat? Wild horses survive by feeding on whatever plant life is available to them that are nutritious at the same time. Horses are continual grazers and spend their time meandering on lust pastures while feeding on them. They typically graze for 15 to 17 hours a day to a get their share of nutrition. In the wild, horses generally produce up to 60 liter of saliva that helps to digest their food more easily.

Horses are non-ruminant herbivore, which means they have one stomach unlike cattle which are multi-chambered. They use microbial fermentation as part of the digestive system. Because of this digestive behavior it is essential that horses are fed continuously in small amounts rather than in one or two big feeds.

A close up view of two horses behind a fence- public domain

Other interesting facts about horses

There are plenty of interesting facts about horses. For instance,

  • Horses are able to sleep while standing up or lying down.
  • They are able to run shortly after their birth.
  • Domesticated horses live up to 25 years.
  • They have the ability to have a 360 degree view because their eyes are located on the side of their head.
  • You can gallop on a horse up to a speed of 44 Kph.
  • Wild horses can usually be found in a herd lead by a male stallion.
  • They generally flee in the event of danger but can also stand their ground if their offspring is threatened.

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