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AskHQ: Feeding for ‘medium work’

Q: When feed labels say that a food is for a horse in ‘medium’ work, what does that really mean?

A: The general definitions of levels of work are described below. They do vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but this is a fairly average interpretation that should give you an indication. However, every horse is an individual and, as such, it is always best to have an equine nutritionist do an assessment for your particular horse.


A horse on ‘maintenance’ is considered to be a horse or pony who is not in work, such as a retiree, companion horse or a horse on box rest after an injury.

Light work

This category includes most leisure horses. Activities typical for this level of work include hacking for an hour or so most days, with mostly walk, some trot and periodic canter sessions. These horses are generally on low-level schooling and doing only low-level competition. This includes horses doing Prelim to Novice dressage and jumping under 1m.

Medium work

This category includes some professional competition horses, and some competent amateur competitive horses. These horses would be in intense training and competing on a regular basis. Typical levels of competition would include Elementary to Advanced dressage, showjumping at 1m and above, Novice and Intermediate eventing and Novice level endurance.

Hard work

This really only includes those horses at the very top of their sport. These horses are having serious demands put on their bodies and are competing on a regular basis.