What Do Horses Eat in the Wild?

February 15, 2024

In the wild, horses have to deal with extreme temperatures and a lack of water so they use their natural senses to identify food sources. They scavenge a variety of plants including grasses, weeds and shrubs. In winter they may eat more woody plant materials such as tree bark, twigs and dried leaves.

The majority of a wild horse’s diet is made up of forage. This is traditionally pasture grass but it can also be hay or pellets (dried grass). If you see wild horses in the wild, they spend their time with their heads down eating for long periods of time. This is because grazing in small, consistent amounts over a long period of time is better for their teeth and digestive tracts. It also burns up energy, keeps them in shape and wears down their hooves.

When they need more calories, they will eat a variety of plants such as clover, dandelions and wildflowers. These are called forbs and a typical horse’s diet will contain around 10% forbs. This helps them get more calories, vitamins and nutrients into their system.

If they need to quench their thirst, wild horses will drink from rivers, streams and lakes or puddles that have formed in the aftermath of rainfall. In times of drought, they will travel long distances in search of a reliable source of water. They may even dig up dry riverbeds to find water or eat moisture-containing plants like cacti to stay alive.

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