Group Feeding of Horses

Horses October 27, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF
Foals eating from a creep feeder

Craig Wood, University of Kentucky 

In a herd situation, horses establish a dominance hierarchy--a pecking order. In group feeding, you must keep this hierarchy in mind. Aggressive or dominant horses eat more than their share by chasing away others from the feed tubs, and timid horses do not get enough. For this reason, adequate feeder space should be available.

Young horses show little aggressive dominant behavior towards other horses during feeding. Mature horses, however, will show aggressive dominant behavior towards their pasture mates during feeding.

The goal of group feeding is to allow all of the horses to consume enough feed to meet their requirements. In order to minimize injury when feeding a group, the most dominant horse should be fed first and the least dominant horse fed last.

When feeding grain, feed tubs should be placed at least 50 feet apart and away from any fences. Placing the feeders in a circle appears to work best because it mimics the horses’ natural group grazing behavior.

If using feed troughs, it is not appropriate to use just one trough, as the most dominant horse may control too much area in the trough. Instead, many smaller troughs should be used. It is a good idea to place one more trough or feed bucket than there are horses in a pasture to allow each horse a better chance of consuming the feed.

An alternative way to feed a group is to use feed bags, but this method is more labor intensive.

When feeding hay, racks that accommodate two to four horses each should be placed at least 50 (15.24 m) feet apart. If feeding on the ground, hay should be scattered in different locations.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.