How do horses naturally feed?

Horses' digestive tracts and their stomach in particular have adapted to this lifestyle.

Horses originally lived in the steppes and spent most of their day wandering around and eating the sparse vegetation on the steppe.

But why is this? The answer lies in the structure of the horse's stomach:
  • The stomach is divided into two - the lower part, which has gland-containing mucous tissue, produces the hydrochloric acid that makes up the acid in the stomach. The upper part consists of gland-free mucous tissue which is very sensitive to stomach acid.
  • Stomach acid is produced constantly, regardless of food consumption, stomach acid is produced 24 hours a day. The buffer is the bicarbonate contained in the saliva, which is produced by constant chewing. Breaks in feeding are therefore harmful to the stomach.
  • Only a 12 - 14-litre capacity: the stomach is a type of "transitory" organ and the feed only remains there for 1 - 5 hours. Here, the food is "sterilised" and turned into a broth of nutrients for digestion in the small intestine.
  • Horses' stomachs have very little capacity to expand!
Constant and slow feeding is therefore of tremendous importance for the health of the animals' digestive tracts.
Grafik Pferd Verdauungstrakt
graphic of horse stomach

Modern horse care and animal-appropriate feeding

Borrowing from horses' natural feeding behaviour, it is essential to provide the animals with access to hay 24 hours a day. Breaks between meals should never be longer than 4 hours. It is important to note, however, that horses should not be given large quantities of roughage without having to make any effort to consume it.

It's better not to feed horses like this!

In modern horse care particularly, which is often influenced by economic factors, animal feed is given without the opportunity for rationing. This means that the food is consumed too quickly and the break between feeding becomes too long. Since the horse's stomach, as previously described, is used to regular and small portions, incorrect feeding can, in the worst case, lead to long-term health problems.

Pferde mit Heuballen

Studies show that every horse suffers gastritis on numerous occasions over the course of its life. 60 - 90 % of all horses suffer stomach ulcers, depending on where they are used. Race horses are the most commonly affected. Even foals have stomach problems, especially during the weaning period.

In addition to the excessively long break between feeds, the ratio of the various feed constituents is crucial to horses' gastric health. The general recommendation is to feed at least two kilograms of hay per 100 kg of live weight per day. The proportion of concentrated feed should depend on the horse's activity level. Unfortunately here too, too much concentrated feed is often given, which the digestive tract cannot handle. Water and roughage are therefore the fundamental building blocks of nutrition for a healthy horse.
Graphic of a food pyramid of a horse
* Example of rationing for a 600 kg warmblood doing light work

To offer the horse the roughage in as appropriate a manner as possible, there are now countless variations designs of nets, pouches, containers, troughs and so on. One simple and inexpensive way of giving horses hay or roughage in a manner appropriate to their lifestyle is hay nets .