How Much Hay Does a Horse Eat Daily?

Jessica McDaniel
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How Much Hay Does a Horse Eat, Lifestyle

Hay, the basic necessity for most horse owners, is a very common question many new horse owners ask. When it comes to hay, every horse is different in their requirements. So what is the best way to figure it out?

One the most important things to ask yourself is what the horse’s body condition score is. Horses with higher body conditions require more calories than horses with lower body conditions.

If your horse’s body condition score (BCS) is 3 or 4, he is considered in great shape and you will only need to feed him one bale of hay per day. If your horse’s BCS is 5 or higher, he will need 1.5-2 bales of hay per day.

Generally, the BCS scale goes from 1-9. A BCS of 1 is emaciated and a BCS of 9 is very overweight. For a horse to be in good shape, he should have a BCS of 3-5.

The most important thing to remember about hay is that horses need to be fed 3.5% of their body weight in hay every day. This measurement includes the amount of hay your horse will be eating and the amount of hay in his manger.

How Much Hay Does a Horse Eat, Size of Horse

And An Intake of Hay.

Hay is a horse’s main source of nutrition and energy and thus it is important to know how much does a horse need, and also when to feed. A horse’s daily intake is dependent on many factors such as their age, size, activity level, and overall health. But a good rule of thumb is that an average horse on a daily basis, will eat from 2-3% of their body weight.

For a 1000-pound horse that essentially means from 20 to 30 pounds of hay a day. But that doesn’t mean the horse is eating all at once. Let’s say the horse eats a little less than 3% of their body weight daily, that means for a 1000-pound horse that is about 27 pounds. Then, they will have hay left over every day. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they will eat the same amount daily, but it does help you get a general daily average for their daily hay intake. With that in mind, a good idea is to consider feeding 2-3 times a day.

Here are the general daily hay intake for other animals:

Pony: 12-15 pounds

Miniature horse: 15-20 pounds

Mature horse: 20-30 pounds


You will always be told that it depends on the horse, but when it comes to hay consumption, there are some generally accepted averages. The general rule of thumb is that horses need about one-third of their body weight in surplus of hay each day. That brings them to around 8-12% body fat which is an ideal weight and body condition.

They then will need less hay in the summer months and more in the winter. Generally, a gestating and lactating mare will consume between 4-5% of their body weight daily, so about 28-40 pounds of hay. This is a considerable amount and you may be able to supplement their diets to limit their hay intake.

Horses with higher metabolisms will consume more hay. Horses who are in work are going to be more active and will need more nutrients, so will consume more hay. Conversely, a horse recovering from injury, etc will need less hay as they spend more time resting.


Horses stay healthy by regularly eating grass, but how much hay is enough? Does a horse require high protein hay or low protein hay? This depends primarily on the horse's age, weight, and health.

Horses usually only require 1-2% of their body weight in hay each day, however, this is based on a general rule and may need to be adjusted. There are also other variables to consider when calculating the amount of hay a horse should be fed each day.

Coming up with an average amount of hay for a horse can be difficult, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the horse always has access to a full bran. When hay is stored in a hay feeder, the only way to ensure the horse always has access to it, is to purchase a large bag of hay. Also, be sure that you don't overfeed high protein containing hay to an elderly horse with a weakened digestion.