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Providing carbohydrates and fats in your horse’s diet

Quick facts

  • Forages can often meet a horse’s energy needs.

  • Feed no more than 0.5 percent of your horse’s bodyweight in cereal grains at one time.

  • You can add fat to the diet through feedstuffs naturally high in fat or supplemental fats.

  • You should slowly make increases in diet fat content.

  • Avoid feeding excess fat to prevent obesity in your horse.


All horses need carbohydrates in their diets. But the type and amount of carbohydrates they receive can affect their health.



Fat is dense in calories and provides a good source of energy for the horse. Combinations of common feedstuffs in a horse’s ration likely contain 3 to 5 percent fat. Horse’s can easily use up to 20 percent fat in their diet.

You can replace some of your horse’s grain with fat or add extra energy to their diet with fat. Horses that will benefit the most from this include horses exercised intensively, older horses that have trouble keeping on weight and horses that have foundered before.


Marcia Hathaway, professor of animal science, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

Reviewed in 2018

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