How to Slow Feed Your Rescue Horse
Extending or slowing horse feed intake has been associated with a range of general health and wellbeing benefits. Horses who feed aggressively tend to develop digestion and personality issues. The slow feed method of horse management may reduce negative responses after feeding. Fortunately, horse owners have a variety of basic and affordable slow feed strategies to work with. Our staff at Equis Save Foundation have listed some tips you can use to slow feed your rescue horse.
Bulk up on fiber
Studies show that insoluble fiber content in hay will extend the length of time horses spend grazing. In fact, slower consumption is linked to higher levels of neutral detergent fiber (NDF) in the feed. Bulky hays above 65% NDF will slow intake of most horses, particularly fast-eating and greedy horses. Cost-wise, “busy hay” should only be a minor addition to your rescue’s diet.
Hay nets—bigger isn’t better
Researchers discovered that horses took much longer to consume a meal if they were fed hay from medium and small hay nets. Reported times suggest levels that reflect a “natural” horse foraging behavior.
Specialized Grain Feeders
Grain spillage has long been the nemesis of horse owners, but specialized feed buckets have shown to produce longer intake times while cutting down on spillage. These feed buckets have a big drawback, however. Horses have a hard time getting all the grain from the bottom of the feeder. Frequent cleaning is required for most specialized feed buckets.
Try a grazing muzzle
Rescue horses with access to bountiful forage and top-notch nutrition are prime candidates for the grazing muzzle, which slows intake of both grain and pasture. Spillage is a problem for grain feeding, but most horses get acclimated to the muzzle in a short time.
Put obstacles in the horses way
It works for other animals such as dogs and cats, so why not horses? There’s been a study that suggests bocce balls in a feed bucket are successful at extending feed time. Horses with glucose and insulin response issues fared better when compared to other slow feed strategies.
Was it hay before grain, or grain before hay…?
More of a homeopathic method, many horse owners and experts swear that hay before grain will slow feed consumption. A lone study determined that the belief has some merit. Horses who were fed hay before grain ate 25% slower than those who were fed hay and grain at the same time. So far, no word on grain before hay.
Take time with your rescue horses
Rescue horses may have pre-existing conditions or behaviors that take time to mitigate. And of course, all horses have their quirks. You may need to experiment to find the right slow feed strategy, but the above methods have proven effective for many horse owners. Our professional team at Equis Save Foundation have used these tips and tricks to slow feed our rescue horses into a healthy diet.
For more information on how to slow feed your horse or how you can rescue a horse in Montana, contact us at any of our two locations: Bozeman and Livingston. Always remember: Ride a horse. Safe a rescue.