Why Do Horses Eat Hay?

Horses will be at the top of my list for the most gorgeous animals on earth. Sure there are many cute poodles and fluffy pandas in existence, but barely anything matches a horse’s magnificence.

Why Do Horses Eat Hay

The beautiful, sturdy body, with the flowing hair and sleek tail of a horse, just screams elegance. Not to mention the purely satisfying sound of their gait.

Horses And Hay

Horses are most content continuously munching on small amounts of food, true to their grazing nature. And since horses cannot floss their teeth, grazing keeps them prevented from dental issues! Horses eat up to 1-2% of their body weight daily.

Horses, at different ages, developmental stages, and levels of activities, have different dietary requirements. Grass serves as the ideal sort of food for the horse.

However, that means an unending supply of fresh grass regardless of weather and climatic changes. Seems nearly impossible, doesn’t it? Now, this is where hay comes in.

Almost equally nutritious but available all year round, hay is an excellent substitute for grass as a horse’s dietary element. Hay comes in different forms, grass hay and legume hay.

Both of these provide various elements of nutrition to the horses. The type to be fed to the horse depends upon its daily routine.

Reasons Why Horses Eat Hay

The innumerable reasons that horses eat hay are:


Many horse owners prefer to feed their horses with hay for innumerable valuable reasons – one of them being its surprisingly nutritious nature.

Hay is the grass that has been cut and dried while still preserving its nutritional value. It smells appealing to the horse, so that’s one thing you can’t go wrong with.

Perfect Amount Of Calories

Hay has varying protein and calcium levels that the horse can regularly intake without much strain on the caretaker’s side. Apart from that, it provides greater levels of energy and digestible nutrients such as Vitamin A.

Hay provides the horse with a perfect balance of calories and nutrition all in one, containing complex carbohydrates. These prove to be the main and the safest sources of calories for the horse.

Eating Hay Prevents Dehydration

The higher protein and mineral content urges the horse to drink up more water, making sure dehydration is not a problem. Hitting two birds with one stone!

Smooth Digestion

Hay is rich in fiber and makes sure that the horse’s digestive system is working smoothly. The fiber holds up water as it passes through the gut, slimming the chances of any blockage in the tract.

Goodbye Boredom!

Aforementioned, nibbling on hay constantly also satisfies the animal’s need to chew and keeps them entertained. They can spend long hours in stables without any complaints if they have enough hay to gobble up.

Hay Is A Great Energy Source For Horses

Good quality hay fulfills all supplemental needs of a horse, no matter the amount of activity it indulges in. The more hay it intakes, the more energy it gains for running around often.


A diet not including fresh grass or hay can tamper with the balance of supplements. Oats and grains are usually high in NSC (non-structured carbohydrates, aka starch and sugar). Food of this sort can contribute to laminitis, continuous foot swellings, insulin resistance.

Reasons Horses Eat Hay

It also makes the horse get jittery, equivalent to a ‘sugar rush.’ Hay makes sure there are no such issues whenever the horse feeds on it.

Without having hay to graze at constantly, horses can also acquire ulcers. They are styled to be eating all day, and their gut produces acid all day accordingly; hence it plays an important part.

The More, The Better

If eaten in a short amount, hay won’t have enough nutritional value. But on average, horses eat up to 20-25lbs of hay a day, so it provides ample supplements.

Good Quality Hay

Hay of low quality is equivalent to no hay at all. Until and unless the hay provided to the horse is of exquisite quality, it holds little supplementary value.

It barely fulfills any nutritional needs of the animal. It becomes merely something to chew on for the horse to stave off boredom.

If you are concerned about not bringing your horse the perfect hay, here are some pointers you can hang on to:

  • Make sure to choose hay that is fine-stemmed and as green and leafy as possible. The greener, the better! It should also be soft to the touch.
  • Steer clear of hay that looks sun-bleached and smells moldy or wet.
  • One should always examine the leaves, flowers, stems, or seed pods to check the hay’s maturity.
  • Pick hay that has been harvested when plants are in full bloom or before the seed heads have formed for different kinds of hay accordingly.
  • Examine the hay carefully for any signs of diseases or blisters on various forms of hay. Be well informed on common issues regarding hay in that particular region.
  • Avoid bales of hay that seem heavier than they should be or are warm to the touch. These may contain excess amounts of moisture, leading to moldy and wet hay.
  • Make sure to purchase hay within a year of its harvest for the best nutritional and supplementary value.
  • When purchasing hay in huge quantities, make sure to get the hay checked by a certified forage laboratory for its authentic nutritional value.

Why Do Horses Eat Hay? – Conclusion

By all means, hay provides the horse everything it requires from the dietary point of view, except salt.

Hence it is one of the most desired bits of food that the horses crave, not mainly because of its filling nature but also because it proves to be an excellent activity for stable-bound horses to constantly munch on hay.