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I have two horses (hacks) on a 5 acre property. It has grass, but it is not enough to sustain them both.

Is hand feeding them hay enough to supplement their feed or do I need to use hard feed?

What are the signs that they need more?

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Do your horses seem to be losing weight? Are their ribs showing? Are they lethargic? Do their necks or haunches look thin or bony? If you're unsure, I recommend asking the vet's opinion.

How much you need to feed them will depend on their age, metabolism, and how much grass is available to them. I'd recommend starting out with 1-2 40lb. bales of hay/day. If they eat it all, increase a little. If they're consistently leaving hay uneaten, decrease.

If they seem to be eating their fill, but are still losing weight, you may want to consider supplementing their diet with grain, beet pulp, sweet feed, and/or senior feed. Make dietary changes gradually and consult with a vet before making any major changes or if you are still uncertain of what you should be feeding.

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  • And their teeth floated. – JohnFx Oct 13 '13 at 23:59
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The best method to know if your horses need supplementing food is to let a vet analyse their blood. Then you know what substances they need and you can look for a mineral feed that contains those.

The ideal diet for a horse is hay ad libitum and the occasional mineral feed to compensate the missing mineral in the hay. You can also give them seasonal herbs and seeds, but be sure to check what they do and if you want that (for example dandelion is great for detoxing the liver)

If they don't work very hard they usually don't need grain or any other "horse feed" on the market.

And of course make sure that the hay is of good quality, that their teeth are okay and they don't have digesting issues.

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  • hay ad libitum can cause bloat. I tend to agree it's the best, unless the horse is underweight – user6796 Oct 6 '16 at 19:28
  • If your horses get bloated from eating to much hay, I would suggest you get your hay checked because that should not be the case. Good hay smells fresh, if it smells in any way rotten I would not feed that to horses, because they have a very sensitive digestive system. – katho2404 Oct 1 '20 at 9:56
  • In my experience horses only eat as much as they need if the are used to having the possiblity to eat hay 24/7. Of course there are breeds that don't need much energy in their feed because they origin from barren countries (e.g. icelandic horses). You have to be careful with them because they gain weight quickly when eating our engery-rich hay. You can feed them hay mixed with straw or give them branches and parts of wood to chew on. All in all, the time between feeding should not be longer than 4h because otherwise horses can get problems with their stomach (e.g. ulcers). – katho2404 Oct 1 '20 at 9:57

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