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Feeding off of our last post on nutrition (pun intended), we thought we would talk briefly about the amount that horses are fed. When talking to clients about nutrition, we often ask “How much are you feeding your horse?” Usually the answer is something along the lines of “A half a scoop twice a day.” But what exactly is a scoop and is it an appropriate amount to be feeding?

Scoops come in a variety of sizes, and we use the term pretty loosely. It can be applied to anything from a 1/2 cup measuring cup, to a #10 coffee can, or even a shovel! That can make it difficult to communicate to your vet exactly how much you’re feeding. Knowing the volume of your scoop can be helpful, however different feeds have different densities. One scoop of sweet feed does not necessarily equal one scoop of pellets.

When feed companies make recommendations on how much of their grain to feed your horse, it is based on weight. So the ideal way to measure the feed is by weighing it out keeping those recommendations in mind, and splitting it into an appropriate amount per feeding. Scoops such as the one pictured to the right already have a scale built into it. This allows you to see how much one scoop of the feed weighs. While these are handy, they’re not necessary. You can also just put your typical ration into a plastic bag and then weigh it on a regular scale. Keep in mind, you don’t have to weigh the grain every single time you feed – just compare weight to volume once, and know how many pounds of each type of feed your scoop holds.

Not only will knowing the weight allow you to more accurately feed your horse (especially if you aren’t the only one doing the feeding!), you will also be sure that he or she is getting the appropriate nutrition. Nutrients (like protein, vitamins and minerals) are balanced in feeds based on the amount that you are supposed to be feeding (ie, their feeding recommendations for the size of horse and work level.) For example, if you have an average 1000 lb horse in light work, and the label on the bag of grain recommends 1/2 lb per 100 lbs of body weight, that means they should receive 5 lbs of grain per day. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that 1 quart of this feed weighs 1 lb. If your scoop is a 1 quart scoop and you’re feeding twice a day (2 pounds), then your horse isn’t getting all the nutrition he or she needs. In this instance, you may be better off with a different type of grain – one that packs more vitamins and minerals in a smaller volume with less calories (assuming your horse is in good body condition).

So the next time you’re asked “How much do you feed?” – be ready! It doesn’t take much time, but a few minutes spent measuring out your feed can be very helpful to you, your veterinarian, and your horse!