Video: Feed Your Horse by Weight

How to measure your horse's hay and grain by weight to ensure you're feeding the right amount.


What does your horse eat at mealtimes? Two flakes of hay and half a coffee can of grain? What do those units of measurement really mean? Your horse’s diet should be measured by weight and based on his body weight. In the video below, Horse Illustrated Managing Editor Holly Caccamise demonstrates how to measure your horse’s hay and grain.


A horse’s diet should consist primarily—if not entirely—of forage, usually in the form of hay or grass. A normal adult horse should eat about 1.5-2 percent of his body weight in forage every day. For an average, 1,000-pound horse, that’s 15-20 pounds.

Hay is typically fed to horses in flakes, but the actual amount of hay contained in a flake varies based on how densely it is baled and the type of hay. Using a fishing scale (available at sporting goods or outdoor stores) to weigh your hay will give you a good idea of how much forage you’re feeding. If your horse gets his forage in the form of hay cubes or pellets, you can use the scale to weigh his cubes (unsoaked) in a bucket. Just subtract the weight of the empty bucket to get your measurement.

If you feed grain, such as pellets or sweet feed, you’ll notice that the feeding instructions on the bag are based on weight rather than volume. You can use the same technique as described above for hay cubes to find the weight of your grain. A kitchen scale is also good for this purpose, and those can be found at most department stores.

Once you’ve weighed a scoop (or coffee can) of grain, you’ll know what your container holds and can translate that weight to an easily measurable amount. For example, if your horse needs two pounds, and your container holds one pound, you’ll know that your horse needs two scoops and you won’t have to weigh his grain again unless his diet changes. Keep in mind that different types of grain may have different weights, so take measurements for each type of grain that you feed.

Further Reading
Feed for Need
Seven Feeding Myths Shattered
Meeting Your Horse’s Nutritional Needs

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Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.


  1. Glad that she showed we can weight the hay like that in a hay bag. I have a hanging scale and now have an idea on how to weight it. Thanks.

  2. I went and brought one of those hanging scale things at Tractor Supply, only it’s not all that accurate! Within a pound or two maybe on large things like hay, very short weight on grain of a pound or two of grain.

  3. Hay I believe in all they want. Grain, you can’t always go by the tag, some horses don’t need that volume of feed, but if you don’t feed enough of it, they lack the vitamins and supplements supplied in the grain. So always feed a high quality hay.


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