Time-Saving Feeding Tips for Horse Owners

Time-Saving Feeding Tips for Horse Owners

Be sure you have a solid nutritional program in place before making feeding shortcuts.

Photo: Photos.com

Shortcuts that don't sacrifice dietary balance

If only we could be as eager as our horses about feeding time. While they’re nickering and stomping in anticipation of the impending feast, sometimes we’re just struggling through this time--consuming chore. So how can the busy horse owner make feeding time more efficient without bypassing the opportunity to cast an eye on each horse, double-checking its health and well-being? We’ll explore some time-savings options in this article, but be sure you only make feeding shortcuts once you have a solid nutritional program in place.

Satiate Them With Hay

“The key point to remember in establishing a healthy feeding program for your horse is to look at the horse’s anatomy and physiology, how nature designed them, and remember they are built to primarily eat forage (grasses such as hay or pasture),” says Clair Thunes, PhD, an independent equine nutritionist based in Sacramento, California. She helps owners construct diets for their horses while also teaching part-time at the University of California, Davis. “Start with forage as the backbone of your program and a goal to maintain (your horses’) weight with forage alone. This goal won’t be achievable for all horses, so if you have a horse that can’t maintain a good body condition with just forage, then you go to adding a feed that is more calorie-dense, such as a fortified performance feed or unfortified feeds such as beet pulp or oats.” 

Once your feeding program is in place, you can consider chore efficiency. Thunes suggests using any of the slow feeder products on the market designed to offer restricted yet free-choice forage, mimicking a horse’s natural behavior of consuming small, frequent meals over the course of a day. 

“There are many (slow feeder) options out there,” she says. With some “you can put an entire bale or an entire day’s hay into a slow feeder. There are haynets which will hold 20 to 30 pounds of hay.” 

Many slow feeders are designed so you only have to feed hay once a day. “This certainly doesn’t work for all horses, but for many it will,” Thunes says. “Some adapt very quickly and will not gorge when they are free-fed.”

This article continues in the February 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. Get an immediate download of this issue when you subscribe now!

About the Author

Alayne Blickle

Alayne Renée Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise controls and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho. She also authors the Smart Horse Keeping blog.

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