The Importance Of Proper Forage In A Horse’s Diet

When you think of a horse, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like me, it’s probably something along the lines of “thoroughbred” or “stocky” or even “mischievous.” But those aren’t exactly traits we praise in humans. 

So why are they worth praising in horses? It all comes down to nutrition.

Forage Quality and Management in Equine Diets
Forage is a crucial component of a horse’s diet and is essential for their overall health and well-being.
Proper riding techniques and properly fitting riding boots are necessary for both rider and horse safety.
Adding supplements to a horse’s diet can help with overall health and performance, but it’s essential to understand which supplements are necessary for your horse.
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Senior horses have different dietary needs than younger horses, and it’s vital to understand how to meet those needs to keep them healthy and comfortable.


Forage is the foundation of a horse’s diet. It provides him with high-quality fiber and low fat, which are necessary for proper digestion. 

Forage also helps your horse to stay hydrated, maintain a healthy weight, and keep his digestive system working properly.

The Importance of Proper Riding Techniques for Safety – “By practicing proper riding techniques, you not only ensure the safety of yourself when you saddle up, you’re also preserving the health and well-being of your horse. Follow our guide to proper riding techniques to ensure that both you and your horse stay safe on your rides.”

Staying Hydrated

In addition to getting enough nutrients, your horse needs water to stay healthy. Horses can easily become dehydrated in hot weather, so it’s important that you provide them with fresh water at all times.

It’s also important that your horse has access to clean water–this means no algae or other contaminants growing in the container!

Mental Stimulation

Horses are very social animals and need to be engaged in their environment. Forage can provide mental stimulation, which helps keep horses busy and happy. 

If a horse has nothing to do, it will often develop bad habits such as cribbing or weaving (rocking back and forth). 

In addition to keeping your horse mentally stimulated, forage also allows you to spend more time with them because there’s less maintenance involved than with hay bales or pellets.

The Importance of Properly Fitting Horseback Riding Boots – “It’s easy to overlook the importance of proper footwear while horseback riding, but neglecting to invest in proper boots can have serious consequences. Protect yourself and your horse from unnecessary discomfort and injuries by understanding the importance of properly fitting horseback riding boots today.”

Weight Management

Weight management is an important part of keeping your horse healthy. Forage, especially grass hay, is a low-energy density food and helps to keep your horse’s digestive system moving. This means that it takes more time for them to eat it and feel full. 

This is good for weight management because the horse will feel less hungry between meals and won’t be able to overfeed themselves as easily!

Muscle Development

Forage is high in protein, which is an essential component of muscle development. As you know, muscles are what make your horse move and perform work. 

If a horse doesn’t have enough protein, they won’t be able to build or maintain the strength that they need. 

This can lead to serious health issues down the road such as lameness and arthritis. The best way to ensure that your horse gets enough protein each day is by feeding them quality forages with high levels of digestible fiber (like alfalfa), minerals (like potassium) and vitamins (like A).

Essential ProteinForage is high in protein, which is a vital component of muscle development in horses
Improved Athletic PerformanceProper muscle development through a forage-rich diet leads to improved athletic performance and endurance of the horse
Strong BonesForage is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong bones and proper muscle function
Reduced Risk of Tying UpHorses that consume a diet rich in forage have been found to have a reduced incidence of tying-up, a muscular disease that hampers a horse’s performance
Improved Overall HealthProper muscle development with sufficient and balanced forage reduces the risk of muscle problems and injuries, resulting in improved overall health of the horse.

Fresher Manure

Fresh manure is essential to the health of your horse and the environment around you.

The benefits of fresh manure are:

It’s great for the environment! The nutrients found in fresh manure help plants grow, which means more oxygen for us humans to breathe. The organic matter from the plants also helps feed soil microbes, so they can decompose organic material faster (and thus create more carbon dioxide).

It makes your horse happy! Horses love eating grass that grows on top of fresh manure because it’s filled with nutrients that promote healthy hooves and coat growth–and also make him feel good about himself (because he knows he’s doing something good for his family).

If possible, try to find a pasture where this happens naturally instead of having someone else do all the work for you; otherwise use an old sheet pan as a way to collect some before dumping out onto their normal feeding area so there won’t be any waste involved during transportation times between locations if necessary later down road when time comes closer near end season time frame.”

The Top 15 Supplements Every Horse Owner Should Know About – “Supplements can be an excellent way to boost the overall health and performance of your horse. Check out our guide to learn the top 15 supplements every horse owner should know about and make informed decisions about your horse’s diet so they can thrive.”

Mouth Health

There are a lot of reasons why proper forage can help your horse maintain healthy teeth. Firstly, it helps to reduce the risk of dental disease. Horses that have access to quality pasture and hay tend to have less tooth decay than horses who eat mostly grain or other processed feedstuffs. This is because forages contain high amounts of calcium and Vitamin C which aid in strengthening the enamel on your horse’s teeth.

Secondly, proper forage can reduce the risk of colic in horses who are fed only grain diets by providing fermentable fiber that aids in digestion and reduces reliance on starch-based feeds like corn or oats (which are high in sugar). 

In fact, most experts recommend feeding some type of non-grain based ration at least once per day off-season so as not to increase risk factors associated with digestive diseases like ulcers or colic due solely from eating too much grain over time!

Reduced Risk of Dental DiseasesProper forage reduces the risk of dental diseases in horses
Strengthened EnamelForage, particularly quality pasture and hay, contains high amounts of calcium and Vitamin C, which help to strengthen the enamel on the horse’s teeth
Improved Chewing AbilityForage promotes healthy teeth and gums, allowing horses to better chew and digest their food
Increased Saliva ProductionEating forage stimulates saliva production, which helps to neutralize acid and prevent tooth decay
Longevity of TeethProper forage can increase the longevity of a horse’s teeth, preventing premature wear and tear and reducing the risk of costly dental procedures.

Behavioral Control

Horses are social animals and they need to be fed a diet that supports their natural behaviors. A horse that is fed a high fiber diet is less likely to be aggressive or act out due to boredom. Horses that are more relaxed have a lower likelihood of developing behavioral issues such as cribbing, weaving and stall walking.

The Importance of Regular Vet Check-Ups for Horses – “Don’t wait until it’s too late to ensure the health and well-being of your beloved horse. Schedule regular vet check-ups to detect any issues early on and learn more about how to maintain the longevity of your horse’s health. Check out our guide on the importance of regular vet check-ups for more information.”

Oral Comfort

Horses are grazers, which means they need to chew their food. They must also masticate and grind their teeth in order to keep them healthy. A horse’s diet should consist of a variety of different grasses, legumes, and grains (grass hay). 

When you give your horse this type of feed, it will help the muscles in their mouth stay strong so they can chew properly. 

If you don’t give your horse enough oral comfort through proper forage, he may develop dental issues such as malocclusion (crooked teeth), tooth decay/fractures from eating hard feeds like grain or sugar cubes without chewing first which could lead him having trouble eating later down the road.”

Reduced Waste From Over Consumption

Reduced waste from over consumption: When horses consume too much forage and do not have enough time to digest it, the undigested material can lead to colic (a painful digestive disorder). Over-consumption also puts a strain on your horse’s stomach lining, which may result in ulcers. 

Finally, when a horse eats too much grass or hay he/she is at risk of developing laminitis (an inflammation of the foot) or becoming obese as a result of being unable to burn off all that extra energy from their high fiber diet

Benefits of Reducing Over-Consumption in Horses

Prevention of Colicoverconsumption of forage can lead to colic, a painful digestive disorder
Reduced Stomach StrainOvereating puts a strain on a horse’s digestive system and stomach lining, which may result in ulcers
Healthier Gut BacteriaConsuming the appropriate amount of forage allows for healthier gut bacteria, which is essential in a horse’s overall health
Improved Overall Well-BeingReducing overconsumption of forage leads to fewer health problems and improves the horse’s longevity
Increased Feed EfficiencyFeeding appropriate amounts of forage, and other feed products will result in increased feed efficiency and cost savings for the horse owner.

Reduced Messes From Sloppy Eating Habits

A horse with a poor appetite is a horse that will not get the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. The following are examples of sloppy eating habits:

  • Eating too quickly — this can lead to bloat, colic and choke
  • Eating while standing — if your horse eats while standing up, he may inhale his food or choke on it
  • Eating hay in large chunks — this can cause impaction in their digestive tract

The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Your Senior Horse – “Senior horses have different dietary needs than their younger counterparts. It’s essential that you understand how to properly care for your aging horse’s nutritional needs so they can live out the rest of their days in comfort. Check out our comprehensive guide to feeding your senior horse for the best feeding strategies and techniques.”


Proper forage is an important part of a horse’s diet. It helps maintain the health of their digestive system, keeps them from getting too much sugar in their bloodstreams, and helps keep them from getting sick. 

Forage can also help horses maintain weight management as they get older so they don’t become obese or thin.

Further Reading

Here are additional resources to learn more about the importance of forage in a horse’s diet:

Lucerne Farms: Why Forage is So Important? – Lucerne Farms explains why forage is a key component in a horse’s diet and why it’s necessary for their digestive system and overall health.

My Horse University: Why Is Forage So Important for Healthy Horses? – This article from My Horse University explains why forage is essential for a horse’s digestive system and how it benefits their overall well-being.

Feed XL: Why Forage is the most important part of your horse’s diet – Feed XL discusses why forage is the most important part of a horse’s diet and provides insights on how much forage a horse should consume.


Here are some frequently asked questions about the importance of forage in a horse’s diet:

What is forage?

Forage is a type of feed that comes from roughage, generally from plants like hay, haylage, or pasture grasses. Forage is an essential food source that provides horses with many critical nutrients.

Why is forage so important in a horse’s diet?

Forage plays an essential role in shaping a horse’s digestive system. Forage contains high amounts of fiber, which prevents digestive issues, such as colic, in horses. It promotes healthy gut bacteria and ensures that horses get the minerals and nutrients necessary for optimal physical performance and overall health.

Can a horse have too much forage in their diet?

It is rare for a horse to consume too much forage, but it can lead to obesity or dental problems. Horses should consume at least 1% of their body weight in forage per day, and horse owners should monitor their horse’s weight and adjust their diet accordingly.

How does forage benefit a horse’s overall well-being?

Forage provides essential nutrients needed for optimal health, and it promotes healthy digestion, a healthy immune system, and optimum performance levels. A diet rich in forage can help prevent a host of health issues in horses and keep them healthy and happy.

What are some common types of forage?

Common forage sources include hay, haylage, pasture grasses, and some types of green fodder crops, such as alfalfa and clover.