Everything About Sweet Feed For Horses

Last Updated on April 8, 2021

Today,  I will be discussing what the purpose of sweet feed for horses is, what ingredients it is made of, what benefits your horse will receive from sweet feed, and what some alternatives for sweet feed are.

There are so many things you can feed your horse! You’ve likely heard of people feeding their horses hay, oats, grain, sweet feed, and more.  Each feed is different, and each feed serves a different purpose.

All horses are different, and all horses have unique dietary needs.  So, what works for one horse may not work for another horse.  However, the best way to make the most informed decision about your horse’s diet is to be educated on all kinds of horse feed.

What is Sweet Feed For Horses?

Sweet feed is kind of like the “hot dog” of horse feed, meaning that it is kind of a mix of everything.  Traditionally, sweet feed is a mixture of oats, corn, barley, soybean meal, molasses, sugars, loose vitamins and minerals, starch, and other mixed textured feed particles.

Sweet feed for horses

Some of these ingredients are similar to other feeds.  For example, sweet feed often contains oats and corn; some people feed their horses only oats or only corn.  Also, some forms of grain have molasses or starch as ingredients.

However, sweet feed is the only feed that tries to combine all of these ingredients into one meal.  Some horses can benefit from this, but others simply cannot stomach it.

Purpose of Sweet Feed

Sweet feed serves as a meal-food for horses, just like oats or grain.  Horses also need forage, which includes foods like grass and hay.  Meal-foods for horses are fed typically twice a day, while horses need access to forage nearly 24-7, all the time. Meal-foods provide horses with protein.

So, sweet feed provides horses with their necessary protein intake.  This provides them with the energy they need to get through the day.

Pros of Horse Sweet Feed

Is sweet feed good for horses? There are reasons why the sweet feed is very popular among some horse owners.  It is the most popular among people who have their horses at home or who own farms. This is because sweet feed is extremely convenient and uncomplicated.

Sweet feed is typically very cheap.  It is much cheaper than feeding your horses a pre-mixed grain.  It is also extremely easy to come by.  Sweet feed is frequently made by local grain companies, essentially by mixing whatever ingredients they have leftover. These companies then sell it locally for very cheap prices.

Sweet feed is also available from almost every farm supply store, sometimes from local sources and sometimes from commercial sources.  So, sweet feed is very inexpensive and also very easy to access.

Cons of Sweet Feed

As can be gathered, sweet feed is not high-quality food.  It isn’t specially engineered with ingredients that target certain aspects of a horse’s health.  For example,  different variations of grain are specially engineered for senior horses, pregnant mares, horses with digestive issues, and so on.

Sweet feed is simply the leftovers.  It provides horses with enough nutrients to live on, but it doesn’t target any areas that horses may require nutritional assistance in.

Some horses can thrive on sweet feed.  Some horses are naturally “easy keepers” and don’t require specially designed food to remain healthy and happy.  But, frequently this is not the case.  It is often easy to point out what horses have been eating sweet feed, because they are thinner than the other horses, and their coats are often duller than the other horses.

Sweet feed is easy to get ahold of and easy on your pocket boot, but it is frequently not what is best for your horse. Again, some horses can thrive on sweet feed.  But, it is uncommon.  And, even so, “thriving” may look different to one horse owner than it does to another.

New Technologies

Kentucky Equine Research has been doing research into how sweet feed could be engineered to be better for horses.  They say, ”

“…the nutritional effectiveness of the sweet feed is determined by the proper inclusion of pellets and by the horse owner feeding the proper type and amount of feed. In many instances, horse owners want to buy the attractive looking sweet feed, but if their horse were fed the recommended amount of feed it would become fat.

Most horse owners opt simply to feed less sweet feed. This would guarantee the horse getting the proper number of calories to control body weight, but would result in a diet poorly fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. A solution to this problem would be to pick the important protein, vitamin and mineral pellet out of the sweet feed mix and provide it to the horse without the fattening grain and molasses. By feeding the horse a small amount (less than two pounds per day) of mixing pellet without the additional grain, a diet food of sorts is created.”

In other words, you can feed your horse sweet feed, but maybe don’t do it all the time.  Or, feed part sweet feed, and part some other meal-feed.

Alternatives for Sweet Feed

Again, if you feel that you’re stuck feeding your horse sweet feed due to finances and availability, you may be surprised how many other options there are! Do your research into where you can pick up grain.  Lots of local farm supply stores carry name brand grains like Purina and Tribute.


Sweet feed has been around forever, and it has been favored by those that keep their horses at home.  It is easy to find and easy to buy.  While some horses can get by on just eating sweet feed, that isn’t the case for most horses.  Sweet feed frequently causes horses to lose weight and for their coats to appear dull and lifeless.

Sweet feed simply doesn’t give horses the nutrients they need to be as healthy as most horse owners believe they should be.  As always, every situation is different, but it never hurts to shop around and see what other feed alternatives are available to you!

I hope this article helped you learn more about sweet feed for horses! If so, please share this article, and share with us your opinions of sweet feed!


How much sweet feed should a horse eat?

If a sweet feed is included in your horses feeding /diet plan it is best for it to be fed daily. The amount of sweet that should be fed to a horse will be somewhere between 0.5 percent and 3.0 percent of the horse’s body weight.

Is sweet feed or pellets better for horses?

Horses usually prefer to eat sweet feed over pellets. Most horses find a sweet feed to be more palatable, as it is made up of a mix of rolled and pressed oats, along with some corn. Pellets on the other hand are made of a variety of pressed grains. The grains are round up into a very fine powder-like form then pressed into a small pellet form.

Although sweet feed may be preferred by horses over pellets because of the way they taste, pellets are a better feed option to be giving your horse. Pellets break down fast and can be digested quickly,  unlike sweet feed. Since the pellets can be digested more easily it gives the horse an increased amount of usable nutrition. 

What happens if a horse eats too much sweet feed?

Sweet feed is a grain that is high in starch. When horses are given too much sweet feed it can cause problems with the horse’s intestinal tract. The large amounts of starch that is in sweet feed can give horses upset stomach (digestive upset), abdominal pain, which will most often turn into colic, and diarrhea.

The sweet feed can also lead to weight gain in your horse, and the weight gain can be quite significant and can cause possible founder also as laminitis. Foundering that is a result of overfeeding will be noticeable multiple days after the horse has consumed the feed. For the founder to be resolved you will have to change the horse’s diet, administer medicine if prescribed by your veterinarian, and follow the treatment plan of your horse. 

Does sweet feed make horses hyper?

Horses that are fed sweet feed are likely to have increased energy. The sweet feed contains a higher percentage of sugar than other horse feeds on the market. Due to the increased sugar in the horse’s diet can become overly excited and hyper. The horse’s change in demeanor is similar to that of a human when consuming large amounts of sugar, giving them what we call a “sugar high”.

Horses react to sweet feeds very quickly. As the stomach digests it, the carbs and other unusable nutrients begin to enter the bloodstream within 40 min after consumption, which can change the horse’s disposition very fast. 

Does sweet feed cause ulcers in horses?

 Sweet feed is known as a concentrated meal.  A concentrated meal is made of grains that are very similar to what would call cereal grains. Cereal grains tend to be low in calcium and other minerals and nutrients which can all be responsible for increasing the risk of ulcerations in the horse stomach.