|Nugget in the Pasture|
Pasture is the best feed for horses and it's readily available in warm weather. From the first green-up of Spring, until the snow lays thick on the land, horses can forage for food. Some horses, like Nugget here, are even good at pawing through the snow for the dried grasses underneath.
When they can't graze on pasture, a horse needs hay. Hay is simply grasses, legumes, and weeds that are cut at the peak of growth and dried. Farmers used a scythe to cut long, even swaths from the meadows and leave it to dry where it fell. In a couple of days, they'd hitch a team of horses to a wagon and with one person driving, others would "fork" loads of the dried hay onto the wagon until it was heaped full. Back near the barn, they'd stack the hay.
But hay alone was not enough to sustain horses who were worked hard. Oats, barley, and corn were all common grains fed to horses. This meant that farmers had to sow, cultivate, and harvest grains not only for the family's consumption but for their horses as well. Grains were only needed, however, during times of heavy work. During the winter months - unless the horses were used for logging - most got by just fine on hay alone.
Today, most of our horses are over-fed and under-worked, my own included. But in Colonial times, a horse wasn't a luxury or a pet, he was a vital part of the homestead and essential to the economy.