Feeding a young horse

  • Feeding the young horse is often considered an art, but, to produce a healthy, strongyoungster, science is also required.

    There have been countless scientific papers published on this topic, however, the majority of research refers to the Thoroughbred, which matures much quicker than other breeds.

    The resulting feeding programmes tend to be unsuitable to breeders of pleasure horses who prefer a more natural approach, allowing the horse to grow and mature at his own pace.

    Do’s and don’ts


    • Start how you mean to go on. A weanling brought up on a sweet-tasting mix may not want to change to cubes
    • Feed little and often, making changes slowly
    • Seek advice if you are unsure. The youngster’s gut is delicate
    • Ask for an analysis of your forage to determine the quality
    • Make sure the recommendations on the bag correspond to your breed of horse
    • Take time to determine the quality of your grazing. Local farmers are often helpful. Alternatively, ADAS is able to analyse both soil and grass. (tel: 01902 693 290)
    • Spend time twice a week to critically analyse your youngster


    • Be tempted to overfeed. Although bone deformities are often genetic, they are also linked to excess calories in the diet. Instead, aim for a gradual growth curve
    • Add lots of supplements to the diet. You will be doing more harm than good. If adequate levels of a proprietary stud ration are fed, there is no need for additions
    • Get hung up over protein. A 16% protein concentrate will suffice
    • Attempt to mix your own feed. Feeding youngsters is a specialist area and should be left to the feed companies’ nutritionists
    • Forget that a weight tape can be used once the horse is two years old
    • Risk your horse’s health for a rosette. Is it really worth it?
    • Overfeed while backing your youngster. A reduction in feed will be beneficial all round – provide a good supplement to cover any nutritional deficiencies

    Don’t miss the August issue of HORSE Magazine, (out now) for more advice on feeding young horses.Click here to subscribe to HORSE magazine, which is packed with horsecare features every month

    Read more about feeding foals:

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