Courtesy of SmartPak.com
In basic terms, forage refers to plants that are eaten by livestock, like your horse. Fresh pasture and hay are two types of forage that are likely part of your horse’s diet.
The foundation of your horse’s diet
Whether it’s fresh pasture, hay, or a combination of the two, forage should be the basis of your horse’s diet. It’s recommended that your horse eat 1-2% of his body weight in forage every day. For a 1,000 lb horse, that’s 10-20 lbs daily.
Weigh your hay
Unfortunately, a “flake” is not a unit of weight measurement. It’s best to actually weigh out your hay, instead of simply feeding a certain number of flakes. With each new shipment of hay, weigh several bales, then divide the average weight by the average number of flakes. That will give you the average weight of a flake, and you can adjust your feeding plan accordingly.
If it were up to him, your horse would spend about 17 hours per day roaming and grazing! While this can be hard to achieve in modern horsekeeping situations, forage is still the most important component of your horse’s diet. Your horse’s daily serving of forage supports his well-being by promoting a healthy gastrointestinal tract, and by providing the calories he uses to exercise and maintain his ideal body condition.
Forage is one piece of the puzzle
While access to plenty of forage is critical for maintaining an ideal body condition, healthy digestion, and general well-being, even great quality hay starts losing its omega 3 fatty acids and key vitamins as soon as it’s cut. That means that while hay is an important part of your horse’s diet, by the time it’s dried, stored, delivered, and fed, it may have lost many key nutrients.