Call us 24/7 - 1-800-461-8898

Building A Better Diet


Modern horse keeping is sometimes at odds with how horses were designed to live and eat, but luckily there are realistic steps you can take to build your horse’s ideal diet from the ground up.

1. Forage

buildingbetter1In their natural state, horses spend up to 20 hours per day roaming and grazing on a variety of forages. Even though your horse can’t graze the Great Plains, his diet should still consist primarily of roughages like pasture, hay, or an alternative source such as hay cubes. More specifically, your horse should be eating 1–2% of his body weight in hay or other forage every day. For a 1,000lb horse, that’s 10–20lbs daily! Ideally your horse should have free choice access to hay and/or pasture all day. If that’s not possible (or not appropriate, like in the case of an easy keeper), a small hole hay net can help your horse slow down and enjoy his hay longer. If your horse has a metabolic disorder or other condition where sugars and starches should be limited, you should work with your veterinarian to design the appropriate feeding program for his needs.

2. Vitamins and minerals

buildingbetter2Even if your horse was able to graze 24/7 on pasture, his forage alone probably wouldn’t be able to provide enough vitamins and minerals. Fortified grain can provide an additional source of these key nutrients, but you should only feed the minimum amount of grain your horse needs as a calorie source for optimal body condition (visit to learn how to body condition score your horse). If your horse is like the majority who only get a partial serving of fortified grain (Not sure? Check out to learn how to check), a multi-vitamin supplement can help bridge the gap and ensure that he is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs, without the unneeded calories and sugar from feeding more grain. Got an easy keeper? A ration balancer like Nutrena Empower Balance will provide all the vitamins, minerals, and protein to complete and balance your horse’s diet without any grain.

3. Salt

buildingbetter3Salt (sodium chloride) is essential for healthy nerve and muscle function, plus a horse that doesn’t get enough salt may not drink enough water. Many horse owners don’t realize that even a horse in no work needs at least one ounce of salt per day! And that need increases with exercise and hot weather. Hay, pasture, and commercial feeds provide very little salt, but top dressing meals with table salt or an electrolyte supplement and providing a Himalayan Salt Lick can help your horse get what he needs.

Himalayan Salt Licks

 $8.95 - $19.95
(779 reviews)

4. Omegas

buildingbetter4Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both important to your horse’s well-being, but maintaining the correct balance between the two is critical. Since omega 6 fatty acids support pro-inflammatory reactions and omega 3 fatty acids support anti-inflammatory reactions, you want to provide your horse with two to four times more omega 3s than 6s. Fresh pasture is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, but many horses don’t have access to pasture grazing. In addition, grain is very high in omega 6s. These two factors are the reasons that the modern horse’s diet often has too many omega 6s and too few omega 3s, which sets the horse up for a chronic state of inflammation. Luckily, supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids like those in SmartOmega 3 Ultra is an easy way to help correct this important dietary balance and let your horse’s good health shine through.

SmartOmega 3™ Ultra
(141 reviews)

5. Additional supplements as needed

buildingbetter5Once you have the foundation of your horse’s diet squared away (Steps 1–4), consider whether he needs specific supplements for proactive support, or to help manage any special health issues he may have. Popular areas of support for performance horses include joint, hoof, digestion and gastric health.

6. Treats as needed (and deserved!)


Posted in Health & Nutrition

Recent Posts

6 comments on “Building A Better Diet
  1. Peggy says:

    Why are you pushing Nutrena feeds in your food pyramid article. Do you have a connection with them?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Peggy, thanks for your question! At SmartPak, we’re on a mission to make the world a better place, using our smarts to power healthy horses and happy riders. One of the ways we do that is by working hard to put together informative content on just about every horse health topic we can think of, and then making sure it reaches as many riders and horse owners as possible. We’re always looking to partner up with smart companies that are committed to horse health and rider education, and Nutrena is a great example of one such company we have the pleasure of working with to expand our collective reach, sharing more information with more riders.
      That said, we don’t officially endorse any commercial horse feeds, including Nutrena products. The reason we mentioned Nutrena’s Empower Balance in this blog is because we believe that there are a lot of horses who might benefit from a ration balancer in place of traditional grain, but many riders simply haven’t ever heard of this type of feed. We hoped that by using a nationally recognized brand, the new information would seem more relatable, and less foreign, to riders who are reevaluating their horses’ diets.
      I hope this was helpful! If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. – SmartPaker Sarah

  2. Angelica Caldwell says:

    Hi, I’m considering adopting a rescue horse once she’s all rehabed and ready to be adopted. Everything isn’t set in stone, but I know I should be considering dietary needs and such, so I was wondering if you could help me with some questions. Please e-mail me. Thank you.


    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Angelica, I asked one of our smartest supplement experts (who am I kidding – they’re all brilliant!) to reach out to you yesterday by email, so you should be all set. If you run into any additional questions, just give us a shout. Thanks! – SmartPaker Sarah

  3. Amelia says:

    Hi there.

    Thank you for such a great page. Please could you give me any advice on feeding a draft. He has access to forage 24/7 as he has rang of a 55 acre farm and is on 4kgs of concentrate a day (2 in the morning and 2 at night) he just doesn’t hold weight like most drafts. He has amazing hind quarters but his rib, shoulder and wither area never build. I am only doing ground work with him at the mo and its never strenuous. He is about to turn 7 and I just feel he could be lacking something.

    thank you for your time

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Amelia, thanks for posting! Your barn sounds like a horse paradise, what a lucky guy! It seems like he’s getting enough quality forage in his diet, so the next thing I would look at is the concentrate you’re feeding. You mentioned he gets 4kg (major props to you for knowing the weight!), but you’ll want to compare that against what the recommended serving size is based on his age and workload. We’ve got a blog that goes into detail about how to read and evaluate the feed label and determine his appropriate serving size: You may learn that he is, or is not, getting the full recommended serving and if not, a multivitamin or a ration balancer may be an appropriate option. It also sounds like your gelding could use help around his topline in particular. If his general weight is good, but you feel like his topline needs addressing, you could consider a supplement to support healthy muscle development such as SmartMuscle Mass: – SmartPaker Casey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Share it:
You'll this

SmartCombo™ Senior Pellets

As Low As: $57.95
(267 reviews)
Healthy Horses  ❤  Happy Riders