Most horses get excited when it’s time to eat. However, some horses can get a little too excited and eat their food too quickly as a result. This is more likely to happen with grains. When a horse eats too quickly, the risk of choking increases. There is also an increased risk of conditions such as gastric ulcersand other undesirable behaviors, such as criticizing when forced to wait longer than usual for their next meal.
The other problem with fast food is that a horse may spill during the hectic pace of eating and may not be able to retrieve the grain for bedding or flooring.
The good news is that there are many options and tricks for slowing down a horse during feeding time. Here’s a look at the best options:
8 tips to prevent a horse from eating too quickly
- Use a slow feeder -Slow feeders slow the consumption rate by providing hay through small openings. The goal here is to simulate the way horses graze when left in a field. In a natural environment, a horse will move slowly while gathering and foraging for grass. A slow feeder can help prevent stress in a horse and will help improve runaway over time. The other great thing is that when a trough is full, a horse can eat whenever they want, as long as it is at a healthy rate.
- Give smaller meals more regularly – Smaller, more regular feedings are expected to help reduce anxiety around feeding by reducing the time a horse is hungry and waiting to be fed. This will reduce the novelty of the food and hopefully encourage a quieter meal time. A smaller meal is also easier to digest and can help reduce any potential Gastro conditions.
- free food – Free feeding is the practice of providing a horse with an endless supply of food. The idea here is that you reduce the stress that some horses develop before meals. By doing this, you are trusting the horse’s instinct to consume only what he needs to maintain his current body condition. Therefore, this eating practice breaks the cycle of stress and anxiety about eating that can lead to obesity and other medical problems.
- Soak feed or use a hay steamer – Soaking hay or grain will not necessarily decrease the amount of feed a horse will consume. However, soaking the grain can reduce the amount of water-soluble carbohydrates, which means fewer calories and fewer calories. Soaked hay or grain will also have fewer dust and mold particles that a horse could consume.
- Wear a herding muzzle – The herding muzzle is a bucket-like device that is designed to slow down fast herbivores. It works by restricting the amount of grass a horse can ingest in one bite. A herding muzzle can be a good short-term solution if you are concerned about an obese horse.
- Use a feeding tray instead of a bucket – Separating the grain or feed in a dish means that the horse is not able to get big bites in the same way as if it were eating from a bucket.
- Place objects in the bucket/feeding tray – Placing some rocks or other items in a horse feed bucket will force the horse to eat around the item to get its grain.
- Separate horses at feeding time – Horses are herd animals and a herd mentality can often start feeding times. This means that some horses, depending on their status in the herd, may feel the need to eat quickly in case they are intimidated by a more dominant horse. If this is the case, try to separate the horses at feeding time or instead feed them in their stables or paddocks where there will be no competition for food.
There are no real downsides to trying some of the slow feeding practices above if you have a horse that consistently eats too fast. However, you may need to experiment with a few different methods to find the one that works for your horse. Once you find a solution, it will hopefully lead to a fitter, healthier and ultimately happier horse.