Pastures provide a valuable feed source for horses
Managed pastures, when supplemented with trace minerals, can provide adequate nutrition for the mature idle horse.
Pastures are vitamin-rich and provide substantial energy and protein for many classes of horses. The psychological benefit for a horse as well as the health benefit of not being confined to a stall is of high value. If a horse has access to a good quality pasture (a pasture that can provide nourishment, unlike a turnout lot, devoid of edible forage), the pasture should be considered as part of that horse’s daily ration. For the idle mature horse, adequate access to pasture, plenty of fresh water, and a trace mineral salt block may fulfill its dietary needs.
A horse requires a dry matter feed intake between 1.5 – 3.0% of its body weight (BW) based on its energy requirements. The estimates for voluntary dry matter intake (VDMI) of horses grazing pastures range from 1.5 – 3.1% of their BW. An adult horse will average VDMI on pasture at 2% BW per day. A lactating broodmare consumes more pasture with a VDMI of 2.8% BW per day to meet her energy requirements for milk production.
A pony or donkey, being smaller in size and requiring less energy, can easily become obese when given free access to grazing even a moderate-quality pasture. All equines utilizing pasture as their sole form of energy should have body condition scores done frequently to ensure they are not getting too fat or too thin. It may be important to limit grazing during times of lush growth such as early spring in order to prevent obesity or to supplement grazing with hay or grain during low pasture productivity, that is, in times of drought or towards the end of the grazing season.
For more information, read the following MSUE News articles:
- Horse pasture and fructan concentrations
- Managing horses on spring pastures
- Spring pastures put some horses at health risk
Additional Resources Related to the Topic:
My Horse University and eXtension Free Archived Webcasts:
- Pasture Management for Horse Acreages
Dr. Dave Freeman, Recorded: February 2009
eXtension/horse Learning Lessons:
This article is an excerpt from My Horse University Online Horse Nutrition Course. Other resources offered by My Horse University and eXtension HorseQuest include a free monthly e-newsletter, free monthly webcasts and social networks on Facebook , Twitter, and YouTube.