Basic Needs of Every Horse

Providing for your horse is an extremely important part of horse ownership.  The following 5  are considered the most basic of needs for horses by the Wisconsin Horse Alliance.
1) Nutrition, 2) Housing, 3) Farrier Care, 4) Veterinary Care, & 5) Basic Handling/Safety
See below for specific information on these topics written by an equine veterinarian.

1.  Nutrition

The staples of most horse diets include roughage (Hay), pasture (Grass), and/or Concentrate feeds (Grains- Oats, Pelleted feeds,Textured or Sweet Feeds).   Horses are monogastric herbivores.  This means their diet consists of plant based materials and they have



Roughage (hay or pasture) should be the most significant portion of any horse’s diet.  Due to our seasons, in the winter months (from November until May), Wisconsin’s horses often receive stored hay grown and harvested from local fields.  

Grass Hay-Generally lower in protein and calorie content than alfalfa hay.  Often a very nice choice for many different types of horses especially easy-keeper horses or horses in low level or non-strenuous work.

Alfalfa Hay-Generally higher in protein and calorie content than grass hay.  A good choice hay for horses that are harder keepers or horses in a high level of work.

Pasture- In the summer months (May-October), Wisconsin horses may be able to obtain a significant portion of their diet from the grass in pastures they are housed in.  This is completely dependent on the size of the pasture they are maintained in, the number of horses in a pasture, and the quality of the pasture available.  Many horses in Wisconsin receive hay year-round due to inadequate pasture space or quality.  On the flip side, many Wisconsin horses have too much pasture space and their grazing time must be limited in order to keep them at a healthy body weight (let out to graze pasture overnight or in early morning hours).  A old rule of thumb for appropriate amount of pasture space is approximately 1 acre of grazing space per horse.

Grass Hay
Alfalfa Hay


Many horses receive supplemental concentrate to help meet calorie, vitamin, and mineral needs that are not met by the roughage in their diet.  Many different types of commercial or non-commercial concentrates are suitable for horses.  

Pelleted Feeds-  Many different commercial companies create pelleted feeds for horses that can meet vitamin, mineral, and calorie needs of horses.  These can be complete feeds, ration balancers, or supplements.  Consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for specific recommendations.

Oats-  A basic horse feed can provide additional protein and calories to horses.  Oats can vary significantly in nutritional content so are often a less predictable concentrate than commercially available diets.  

Sweet Feed-  A highly palatable, high  calorie/high sugar starch content feed.  While sweet feeds have historically been used extensively for horses, this may not be the best choice for a horse’s digestive tract as the very high calorie and sugar and starch content can leave them prone to certain conditions including gastric ulceration and laminitis (inflammation of the soft tissue within the feet of a horse).

Fun Facts/ The Poundage


-The horse will take in approximately 1.5-3% of their body weight in roughage per day.

-A horse generally should not receive more than 1% of their body weight in concentrate per day.

The average horse (~1100 lbs)=

15- 30 lbs of hay per day

A maximum of 10-12 lbs of concentrate per day

*These actual amounts can vary significantly depending on the individual horse’s energy requirements, metabolism, type of hay and concentrate. Consult with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist to help formulate your horse’s diet.

Taking Your Horse’s Weight & Body Condition Scoring

Your horse’s weight can be estimated by measuring using a weight tape right on the farm.  The most accurate estimate of weight can be determined by measuring your horse’s heart girth length (in inches) and your horse’s length (in inches) from shoulder to tail head and placing these numbers into a formula.


Weight (in lbs) = Heart girth (in inches) x Heart girth (in inches) x Length (inches)


Most average light horses weigh approximately 1100 lbs.

Most average Warmbloods weigh approximately 1400 lbs.

Most average miniature ponies weigh approximately 300 lbs.

2. Housing

3.  Farriery

Horses ideally require a large amount of space for healthy management.  A general rule of thumb for maintaining a horse in a healthy herd/space situation is 1 acre/horse.  Horses can be housed in a variety of situations that are considered acceptable which include pasture with shelter, paddocks/yards or dry lots , indoor or stall-housed options.

Under construction.  Please check back for up to date information.  


Pasture with Shelter:

Paddocks/Yards or Dry Lots:


Boarding Facilities:

Under construction.  Please check back for up to date information. 

4.  Veterinary Care

Under construction.  Please check back for up to date information. 

5. Basic Handling/Safety

Under construction.  Please check back for up to date information.