Feeding Native Horses

If you own a native or hardy type you'll likely know it can be a challenge to find the correct nutritional balance as they have evolved over hundreds of years to prosper on poor quality grazing. Today many natives tend to be turned out on far improved pasture than they have evolved to survive on. Alongside this, natives are now looked after far better, being rugged, and stabled plus not travelling the natural distances free grazing provided and therefore not burning additional calories in exercise or for generating warmth over the winter months.

Many natives enter spring carrying far more weight than they should, driven further by a spring flush of highly calorific grass. Before you notice you have a native with weight to lose, who can also suffer long term health problems such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), potentially leading to an increased predisposition to Laminitis. Joints and the respiratory system are placed under unnecessary strain when your native carries too much weight. Those who are overweight also struggle to regulate body temperature and are more likely to suffer from colic.


Natives often require a low calorie fibre based diet (also low in starch and sugar), but still need enough energy to keep up with their workload or reproductive status, and will often benefit from added oils to the feed. Native breeds are known for their stunning coat, mane, tail and feathers - to maintain the quality of this, the inclusion of soya and linseed oils often helps. As with all breeds, natives differ individually, and it is never a case of “one size fits all”. Some natives are good doers, others poorer doers. Some are in hard work, others out in the field, retired, or on box rest. Some natives require more calories to keep up with physiological and exercise needs, and some require less. Therefore, it is always important to consider your pony or horse on an individual basis, to make sure their nutritional needs are met.

Management considerations

  • Natives and hardy types are often predisposed to clinical issues such as obesity, Laminitis, EMS and Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID or Cushings) - nutrition can be a key factor in managing and limiting these risks
  • Overweight horses still need to have their nutritional needs met - starvation is far from an ideal method of weight loss, with the potential to create further issues such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • Natives are often best fed on slow-release energy (fats/oils) which can be beneficial in more ways than one - limiting fizzy behaviour, decreasing the risk of nutritionally induced clinical issues, plus the excellent effects on coat, mane, tail and feather quality
  • Where possible have your forage analysed to find the lowest calorie provider you can - Timothy hay tends to be lower in calories than other options
  • It is perfectly normal for a native to do well in the summer months and become leaner in the winter
  • Allow your native to naturally lose weight in the winter, if they are leaner in the spring, you have done a great job!
  • Only feed additional forage if your native can’t access grass, such as when we have a deep covering of snow
  • Winter grazing will continue to provide energy and protein even when lacking in nutritional provision

Top Tips

  • Ensure your native has access to suitable low calorie forage and fresh water at all times
  • Soak or steam hay to reduce calorie and water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content. Forage can be soaked anywhere from an hour to overnight, but remember to rinse before feeding. Steaming is the ideal way of reducing calorie content and improving the hygienic quality of the hay
  • Feed only 1.5-2% of forage relative to your native's total bodyweight. A 500kg horse would be fed 7.5-10kg of total forage per day. Never feed less than 1.5% forage unless under veterinary supervision
  • Feeding forage alone does not provide a balanced diet, so consider a suitable feed balancer to ensure their nutrient, vitamin and mineral requirements are met
  • For overweight horses, consider restricting grass intake and increasing exercise. Make sure to continue feeding a balancer to support overall long-term daily health

  • The winter months are your friend, so let the cold weather kick start your natives internal hind gut radiator
  • Provide access to ad-lib low calorie forage (grass, even when poorer quality or less abundant will likely suffice) and your pony will keep warm, and burn calories in the process
  • Your native pony is absolutely fine (if unclipped) to be turned out without a rug, especially if they are carrying excess weight
  • When stabled feed from the floor where possible to maintain dental health
  • Double netting of haynets or providing multiple haynets may be necessary to extend eating time, this can be done where feeding from the floor is not possible
  • If/when stabled, make sure the bedding can’t be eaten

Native Balancer

 Nutritional values:

11 MJ/kg digestible energy, 16% protein, 6.5% oils/fats, 15% fibre, 11% ash, 12% starch, 4.5% sugar


The only product of it's kind on the market - specifically formulated to meet native horses' and ponies' nutritional requirements. Benefits from added soya and linseed oils, as well as fats and organic zinc for healthy skin, and good quality mane, coat, tail and feathers.


The Native balancer contains a double-action digestive supplement with probiotics and nucleotides. It also contains a hoof supplement with biotin, methionine, lysine, organic zinc and organic copper, and a respiratory supplement with antioxidants and garlic. Like all the Blue Chip balancers, it also contains complex antioxidants (selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E) to aid in the 'mopping up' of free radicals, as well as magnesium acting as a de-stressor. The Native balancer contains a complete vitamin, mineral and nutrient package. Blue Chip uses organic/chelated minerals to ensure optimum absorption and effectiveness.

Our feed advisors are here to help!

Email: info@bluechipfeed.com

Call: 0114 266 6200

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