What’s in a Meal?


  • Optimum health and performance
  • Optimum nutrition
  • Reasonable cost

How to achieve the goals

  • Define your horse’s current performance level ie. breeding, racing, recreation etc, and body condition score. (See body condition scoring fact sheet)
  • Determine your horse’s daily nutrient requirements based on the current performance level and other factors such as environment (temperature, rain, wind), age, breed. Use the National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 1989 or consult an equine nutritionist through your local feed dealer.
  • Determine feed composition by analysis. Knowing the protein, energy, fibre, minerals etc. content of feeds is essential in order to feed for optimum health and performance.
  • Balance the ration. Feed costs are a large expense; therefore, feed analysis and ration balancing results in minimizing costs and maximizing the nutritive value of your horse’s diet.

How to sample for feed analysis

Proper sampling is the key to optimizing your nutritional management program. The sample must reflect the true nutrient composition of the feed. Poor sampling may result in over or under feeding and lost of money and /or performance. The sample you submit should be composed of many sub-samples. One pound of grain or forage submitted may represent several tonnes of feed, a barn full of bales or several acres of pasture. The composition analysis can only be as good as the sample submitted. Contact a feed analysis laboratory or your feed dealer for submission details before taking samples.

HAY: Obtain a hay corer from your feed dealer and randomly bore 10 to 20 bales (as many as possible). Bore each bale one to three times through the small square bale end. Combine all core samples (30-60) in a pail and mix. Take your composite sample for submission from the pail and place in a clean plastic bag. Seal and keep at room temperature until shipping. This sampling should be done periodically as you use hay from the mow or receive new hay shipments.


GRAIN: Randomly collect 10-20 handfuls or scoops from bulk storage, mix in a bucket and take a 1 pound composite sample from this mix and place in a clean plastic bag. From bagged feed that is the same batch or lot, take several handfuls from a bag or preferably a few bags, mix and take a 1 pound sample. Place in a clean plastic bag, seal and store at room temperature until sending to lab.


PASTURE: Using a hedge trimmer or scissors, randomly sample 10-20 sites that the animals are grazing and clip grass to grazing height. Collect samples in a clean bucket, mix and take a one pound sample from mixture, place in a clean plastic bag, seal and freeze until shipping.


Courtesy of the Equine Research Centre
Guelph, Ontario, Canada