How do you calculate your horse’s energy requirements?

Share on :

Do you own a horse or are you considering buying one? It is important to know the nutritional requirements of your horse. These depend on many factors, including weight and physical exercise. How do you calculate a horse’s energy requirements? What should a horse’s diet include? We answer all your questions and take a closer look at horse nutrition in this article.

Understanding fodder units

Understanding fodder units is essential in order to offer your horse a diet with enough energy. Energy provided by feed must cover the horse’s various requirements, namely:

  • maintenance: the energy drawn from feed allows the horse to maintain its vital functions, namely breathing, eating, and moving;
  • production: these are needs related to physical exercise, growth, gestation, or lactation.

Fodder units help meet the nutritional requirements of horses: they correspond to the net energy value of a raw kilogramme of barley, which is approximately 2,200 Kcal.

How do you calculate a horse’s maintenance requirements?

Now you understand what the concept of fodder unit means, let’s see how you calculate the daily ration for your horse. To begin with, it is important to know the average daily requirements of a horse based on its weight. Do you know how much your horse weighs? We have an online weight estimation tool.

Type of horse Fodder unit per day
Pony 2.1
Saddle horse weighing approximately 500 kg 4.1
Saddle horse weighing approximately 600 kg 4.8
Draught horse weighing approximately 900 kg 6.4

The maintenance requirements indicated in this table correspond to a saddle horse in standard conditions. They can vary depending on the horse’s lifestyle. Indeed, stalled horses need less energy intake than pastured horses because the latter are exposed to more variable temperatures and expend themselves more.

How do you calculate a horse’s other requirements?

Production requirements need to be added to maintenance requirements to properly calculate a horse’s energy needs. To do this, you must first estimate how much work your horse does: very light, light, moderate, or intense.

How do you estimate a horse’s workload?

Logic is usually sufficient to estimate how much work your horse does. A horse that only works once or twice a week or is hacked out a few times is a horse with a light workload. A horse that is schooled more regularly, say three times a week for an hour, has a light workload. If you work your horse more regularly or if you occasionally practice a discipline, such as show jumping, consider the workload to be moderate. Finally, riding school horses, race horses, or horses worked very frequently or which compete are considered horses with intense workloads. Here are some examples of training and their correspondence in workload:

  • Very light training: occasional hacks in walk
  • Light training: schooling with no jumps or long canters
  • Moderate training: dressage tests, short to medium length hacks
  • Intense training: show jumping, racing, competition, physical games

To properly calculate your horse’s requirements, always take into account its current level of exercise: if your horse works regularly for a short period of time, its ration will need to be increased. When this exercise decreases, the ration should be gradually reduced. Not sure what your horse’s workload is? You can precisely ascertain this by measuring its heart rate during exercise. This calculation makes it possible to transpose the heart rate into volume of oxygen consumed, and then energy expended.

How do you calculate a horse’s production requirements?

You now know what your horse’s workload is. To cover all of its energy requirements, you need to add production requirements to its maintenance needs. Here is a table of the number of fodder units to add to your companion’s maintenance needs depending on its workload.


Weight in kg Very light workload Light workload Moderate workload Intense workload
300 0.13 FU 0.22 FU 0.38 FU 0.60 FU
400 0.15 FU 0.26 FU 0.44 FU 0.70 FU
500 0.17 FU 0.30 FU 0.50 FU 0.80 FU
600 0.19 FU 0.34 FU 0.56 FU 0.90 FU

What are the other nutritional requirements that should not be overlooked?

Ensuring that your horse’s energy intake is correct is a good thing. However, you must offer it a rich and varied diet, containing all the nutrients it needs to ensure a good nutritional balance.


Horses must always have clean and cool water available. A horse weighing 500 kg drinks about 30 to 40 litres of water a day. This consumption may increase depending on temperatures, physical exercise, and age.


Ever heard of DCP? DCP means digestible crude protein. It corresponds to your companion’s protein requirements. A minimum digestible quantity must be fed to the horse each day. Most horse feeds contain DCP values above the minimum required to ensure a good balance between amino acids and proteins.

Vitamins and minerals

Like all living things, horses need minerals to stay in shape and these include sodium, trace elements, iron, calcium, phosphorus, copper, iodine, and zinc. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B12, D, E, K, and PP should also be included in horse diets, in greater or lesser quantities depending on their physiological stage and activity.

Feed supplements

Horses (geldings, mares, stallions) with a light workload can cover their energy needs with a feed based on fodder supplemented with granules or flakes with moderate energy intake (0.65 to 0.85 FU). Horses performing strenuous and repeated exercise require feed with high energy potential to avoid excessive rations which can, in some cases, be supplemented with specific feed supplements (joints, hoof, conditioning). Please take a look at our supplements: diverse and varied, they are developed by veterinary surgeons and nutritionists and will keep your horse healthy whatever your project.

Discover the Royal Horse Application and personalize your horse’s ration

Open chat
Welcome on our Royal Horse website, our salesperson will answer your technical questions.