The Pros and Cons of Feeding Straw to Horses

Straw can be usefully fed to horses but we need to be careful. Check out this article If you are thinking about feeding your horse straw.

Jeremy Ricketts
Jeremy Ricketts Posted on 7 January 2023
2 Min Read Straw bales

The main reasons people feed their horses a straw ration:


  • A hay shortage
  • For economic reason
  • To control the horse’s weight


The problems associated with Feeding Straw:


  • Straw can be sprayed with a chemical just before harvesting to encourage the grain to ripen and this is common practice in England where round-up is still used
  • Too much straw in a horse’s diet can cause a gut impaction
  • It is a poor source of vitamins and the high amount of fibre means the mineral content is more difficult for horses to access
  • If the grain is left in the seed heads this could be a problem for insulin-resistant horses
  • Young and old horses may not cope with chewing straw


The 3 advantages associated with Feeding Straw:


  • It has less sugar and starch than hay and it takes longer to eat, which is good for overweight horses
  • The calorie content is about 12% lower than late cuttings of mature hay
  • Horses take longer to eat straw and they remain occupied


Checklist to use if you decide to Feed Straw:


  • Checked your horse’s teeth for the ability to chew the extra roughage
  • Introduce feeding straw slowly and monitor how your horse copes with the extra roughage by monitoring his bowel movements
  • Feed oat straw or if this is not available barley straw
  • For horses living out in winter mix hay and straw in equal amounts
  • In total don’t let any more than 30% of the roughage intake come from straw
  • If your horse is insulin resistant check the staw grain content is low
  • If your horse is prone to impaction colic do not feed straw
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Jeremy Ricketts

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Hello, I'm the resident writer here at The Rideout. I've been riding horses for the best part of... well my entire life! Over the years of owning, riding, competing and looking after horses I've built up a small wealth of information.

This site owes tribute to my many hours spent in and out of the saddle learning about the behaviours, needs, and quirks of these amazing animals. From basic care and grooming to advanced training techniques, I've honed my skills through years of hands-on experience.

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