feeding and care of horses
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How does your horse eat

Each horse has it’s own eating habits. Some really enjoy their feed and are at ease when eating. Others kick the stable wall the moment their neighbour only looks in their direction. In the case that your horse displays an unusual eating habit, you probably would like to find out the reason. The most common undesirable habits are described below.

Gobbling
Some horses gobble their hard feed. This can have one of two causes. Gobbling it’s feed is part of his character or the horse has developed ‘feed anger’. Because of feed anger the horse thinks that it has to finish the feed as quickly as possible, otherwise his ‘neighbour’ will eat it.
Gobbling means bad chewing, little saliva, therefore bad digestion and a risk for gas colic or colic by a blockage of the guts.

What you can do to tackle this habit?

  • Pay a lot of attention to the structure of the hard feed, Your horse will chew better and longer on a muesli with a lot of structure. Structure means feed with many fibres, for instance Lucerne or the pre-historic grain called ‘spelt’. If you prefer to feed cubes, a 8mm cube is more inviting to chew on than a 5mm cube.
  • Give more small portions, spread out over the day.
  • Put rounded stones in the manger. That will help to relax your horse eating. Be careful, don’t use the saltlick for this purpose.
  • Expanded hard feed is in a way already mechanically pre-chewed in the factory, which makes it very suitable for these type of horses. That reduces the chance to develop colic.

‘Picky’ eaters
Some horses are very picky eaters. This can have a number of reasons. Perhaps the content of your feed has changed, the quality is low or the feed is going off. Of course, there are also horses who don’t like everything you feed them.

What can you do about this?

  • Check if your feed is still all right. Is it dry and does it smell nice? Or is it a bit sticky or does it smell off? If you don’t store your feed in a bin with a lid, check if there are any mouse droppings. That definitely doesn’t taste good.
  • Tasty feed is very important. A lot of horses love feed that contains a small amount of molasses. (click here for an article about the pros and cons of molasses).
  • In case you don’t want to feed molasses, sprinkle some grated apple over your hard feed.
  • Don’t change the feed too often, as that is not good for the digestive system of your horse. Look for one basic feed and add some mash or Lucerne every now and then.
  • Some horses have to get used to the taste of the feed. Keep trying for a while and change the feed if it doesn’t improve after two weeks.

Making a mess
Making a mess with the feed often indicates that there are problems with the teeth. In that case, you can see wet balls of roughage in and beside the manger (‘quidding’). Another cause could be the tastiness of your feed. Some horses have a very specific taste. You can also have restless eaters, who throw their feed out of the manger, or, even worse, destruct the whole manger. The reason could be a busy environment. Perhaps your horse doesn’t get on with his neighbour and that makes him restless.

What can you do about this problem?

  • Check the mouth and the teeth for hooks, inflamed gums or a loose tooth. Perhaps your horse in changing his teeth? If you suspect teeth problems, get the equine dentist in to investigate.
  • Mix a handful of Lucerne in your hard feed to make your horse chew properly.
  • Give the horses a warm mash every now and then. Most horses love that.
  • If your horse is a restless eater and spills his feed, create a quiet atmosphere during the meal. Switch the radio off, avoid people walking past the stables and no noises from wheelbarrows etcetera.
  • Try moving the restless eater to another stable with a different neighbour and see if that improves the situation.
  • If you don’t have a fixed manger, make sure that the feed bucket is big enough. Some horses hate a small feed bucket.