Fridays with Finn

An Equine Nutrition Blog

Why Forage First?

By: Madeline Boast, MSc. Equine Nutrition

Forage first is generally considered to be one of the “golden rules” of horses, so why is it so commonly ignored or disregarded? Ensuring your horse is getting adequate forage can make a huge difference in many aspects of their health. 

Horses are herbivores with hindgut fermentation that have evolved to graze. Continuous access to roughage or small frequent forage meals throughout the day has clearly reported benefits. A more stable microbial environment in the hindgut as well as a lower risk of stereotypic behaviours have been reported. With clear physiological and psychological benefits, such as those previously listed, why are there so many horses that still lack forage in their diets?? 

Historically, it was challenging to meet the energy needs of hard-working horses with a primarily forage-based diet. This was due to the available forage being of lesser quality than what we have today – this nutritional problem led to the feeding of energy dense grains. This feeding technique is still used today despite the available forages being of much higher quality.

So, how do you know if your horse is on a good forage diet? – Well step #1 is a hay analysis, from there a nutritionist can determine if your horse needs additional supplementation. Most often, horses with little intense exercise only need some extra vitamin and mineral supplementation…imagine if you could reduce your feed bill while improving your horse’s nutrition!

Contact Madeline today to see how you can help your equine partner thrive on a balanced diet that is based on forage. 


Durham, A. E. (2009). The role of nutrition in colic. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, 25(1), 67-78. 

Ellis, J. M., Hollands, T., & Allen, D. E. (2002). Effect of forage intake on bodyweight and performance. Equine Veterinary Journal, 34(S34), 66-70. 

Goodwin, D., Davidson, H. P. B., & Harris, P. (2002). Foraging enrichment for stabled horses: effects on behaviour and selection. Equine Veterinary Journal, 34(7), 686-691. 

Jansson, A., Saastamoinen, M., & Lindberg, J. E. (2012). Forage feeding systems. In Forages and grazing in horse nutrition (pp. 289- 303). Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen.

 Saastamoinen, M. T., & Hellämäki, M. (2012). Forage analyses as a base of feeding of horses. In Forages and grazing in horse nutrition (pp. 305-314). Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen. 

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