Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Non-Structural Carbohydrates in Horse Forages

Forages high in non-structural carbohydrates can be detrimental for some horses. Here’s what to know.

No account yet? Register


High-quality forage has traditionally been the component the equine diet is based around. However, what might be considered “quality” for one animal might not necessarily be optimal for another.

Generally speaking, protein, fiber, non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), and minerals are all measured components used to assess hay quality. But, NSC has gained more attention than the other components over the past few years as horse owners work to dial in exactly how high or low this component needs to be to meet their horses’ nutritional needs.

Forage is critical to maintaining gut health in the horse, making hay quality an important consideration. Ideally, horses should consume 1.5 to 2.0% of their body weight in forage per day. Hay intended for consumption by horses should contain protein levels that meet the animal’s nutrient requirements based on their activity level. For instance, a performance horse will likely require hay with a greater protein content than will a pasture pet. The hay’s structural fiber and mineral content can help meet a horse’s nutritional needs. The forage’s NSC content should be considered when horses encounter metabolic challenges.

Sugar, fructans, and starch comprise NSCs, and each of these nutrients are readily and rapidly digestible within the horse’s gastrointestinal tract, providing useable energy after consumption. Working or performance horses might require substantial NSC to meet energy demands, whereas less active adult horses require little to no additional NSCs. This difference in NSC needs within this species has driven additional research and review of NSC in horse

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


No account yet? Register

Written by:

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Which hoof problem do you encounter most often in your horses?
342 votes · 342 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!