You probably know your horse’s nutrition is key to his overall health. But do you know what happens if you need to change his diet? Find out how to make the transition as safe and easy as possible.

Whether your equine companion is a pleasure horse or a racing champion, his diet is extremely important. Because sudden changes to what he eats can cause adverse effects, it’s important to know how to make the necessary feed changes without affecting his health in a negative way.

Here are three tips that’ll help you make the transition!


Before you change your horse’s feed, it’s important to consider his current
nutritional needs. If your equine companion is losing weight, for instance, you must ensure that his new feed doesn’t have less protein or fat than his previous feed. If he has
Cushing’s disease, his new feed will have to be low in sugar and starch. It’s a good idea to consult with your vet before making any changes to your horse’s diet. He or she will be able to recommend the best option and will let you know if keeping your horse on the same feed with a few minor adjustments is more advisable than changing it completely.


Opinions differ regarding how long a transition period to a new feed should
last. Some experts believe you should change feed gradually over a week, while others recommend stretching it to three or four weeks.

Whenever possible, stretch the transition for as long as possible. If your horse has an extremely sensitive digestive system, extending the feed change will help prevent potential medical issues or digestive disorders that the transition may cause.

Start by adding a small amount of the new feed into your horse’s current food. Once he gets used to it, reduce the old feed and add an equal amount of the new feed. For example, if your horse gets 5 cups of feed each mealtime, give him 41⁄2 cups of his old feed and 1⁄2 cup of the new feed. Let him adjust to this change for a few days, and then switch to a ratio of 4:1–4 cups of the old feed and 1 cup of the new feed. Continue this until he’s only getting the new feed.

Why is this important? Suppose you want to give your horse a highly fermentable diet or one that’s richer in nutrients than he’s used to eating. In order to ensure his digestive system — and his intestinal bacteria population — can handle the new diet, it’s crucial to allow it time to adjust.


For up to a month after you switch your horse’s feed, keep an eye out for digestive issues. Check for loose manure, decreased appetite, and colic. If he experiences a digestive problem, stop transitioning to the new feed until you’ve dealt with the issue conclusively. If you’ve already switched him completely to his new feed, don’t just switch back when you notice an issue. Instead, monitor his health and consult with your veterinarian if the digestive issues persist.

Different situations may necessitate a change to your horse’s diet. For example, if his nutritional needs change, or you have a short supply of hay, you will have to cater to such changes. Making sudden nutritional changes isn’t ideal, so try to work with a nutritionist and veterinarian to guide you through the process — and be sure to take it slow!


Thomas Glare is just a regular guy who loves horses. He is a father of two wonderful boys and has been a journalist since 2015. A Grand National enthusiast, Thomas covered the event live multiple times in the past few years.