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How Much Hay
 By Winniefield Park   •   14th Jan 2016   •   1,170 views   •   0 comments
How Much Hay

One of the most puzzling aspects of horse care is how much hay to feed. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture states that on average a full-grown riding horse should eat about 12-15 pounds of hay a day. Thereís also a simple formula around that looks like this:

Bodyweight X 2% = Amount of hay to feed in 24 hours

These are good places to start. But this still might leave a beginner scratching their heads and asking the next question - how much does my horse weigh. There is a formula for that too:

Heart Girth x Heart Girth x Body Length)/330 = Body Weight

Whatís heart girth? Thatís the measurement around the horse, taken just behind the elbow where the girth would normally lay. Body length is calculated by measuring from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks. This line could end up being a bit uphill towards the rear. All measurements should be in inches. Another way to find your horseís weight is using a weight tape. These tapes are wrapped around the horse as if you were taking the heart girth measurement mentioned above, and give you an approximate weight.

The problem with all of these formulas is that they only give an average. The weight formula doesnít take into consideration the horseís frame, or current condition. It doesnít work for many draft or very tall horses, and isnít suitable for very small ponies. Besides the build and height of a horse, there are other factors that determine how much hay they should be eating. The hay formula doesnít factor in the type of hay, what other feeds the horse might be getting or the condition of the horse when the formula is calculated. If the horse is very fat, you end up feeding more than you want to. If the horse is very skinny, underfeeding is a possibility.

Using the formulas to calculate body weight and hay is a starting point for most horses. But there are a number of other factors that also need to be considered. These include:

Workload - your horse could be a couch potato or leading trail rides over rough country all day. The couch potato needs to step back from the bale feeder, and the hard working horse will need some extra rations to help replace burned energy and repair tissues.

Age - Growing horses have specific needs, as do older horses whose digestive system might not be as efficient

Health - A horse that has ongoing health problems may need special considerations when it comes to amount and type of hay.

Pregnant or Nursing - Mares that are building or feeding babies need extra food to keep up with the demands of their foals.

Metabolism - Some horses are hard keepers, meaning they are hard to keep in good condition, while others gain weight when you show them a bale of hay. Ponies are notorious for seemingly gaining weight on air and need far less in comparison to a horse.

Weather - Horses living in cold climates need energy fuel from their feed to stay warm.

Other Available Food - If your horse has access to decent pasture, you may need little or no hay at all.

This is why itís important not to just follow a formula or recommendation. Hay amounts may have to be adjusted throughout the year, and if there is a change in the horseís activities, health or age. Only be keeping a close eye on your horse will you know whether youíre feeding too much, too little or just the right amount of hay. Start with a formula, but your eyes should judge whether or not youíre feeding the right amount.
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