Most horses get excited when it comes to feeding time. However some horses can get a little bit too excited and may eat their food too fast as a result. This is more likely to happen with grains. When a horse eats too fast it increases the risk of the horse choking. There is also increased risk of conditions such as gastric ulcers, and other undesirable behaviors such as cribbing when they are then forced to wait longer than usual for their next meal.
The other problem with fast eating is that a horse may spill during the frenzied eating pace and may not be able to recover the grain for the bedding or ground.
The good news is there are lots of options and tricks to make a horse slow down during meal time. We look at the best options below:
8 tips for Stopping a Horse Eating too Fast
- Use a slow feeder -Slow feeders slow down the rate of consumption by providing hay through small openings. The goal here is to simulate the way in which horses graze when left in a field. In a natural setting a horse will move around slowly as they pick and search for grass. A slow feeder can help to prevent stress in a horse and will help improve bolting over time. The other great thing is that when a feeder is a full a horse can eat whenever they want as long as it is at a healthy pace.
- Give smaller Meals more regularly – A smaller feed and more regular feed will hopefully help reduce the anxiety around feeding by reducing the length of time a horse is hungry and waiting o be fed. This will reduce the novelty of the feed and hopefully encourage calmer meal time. A smaller meal is also easier to digest and can help to reduce any potential Gastro conditions.
- Free Feeding – Free feeding is the practice of providing a horse with a never ending supply of feed. the idea here is that you reduce the stress that some horses develop in anticipation of meal times. By doing this you are trusting in the instinct of the horse to only consume as much as they need to main their current body condition. This practice of feeding therefore breaks the cycle of stress and anxiety eating which can lead to obesity and other medical problems.
- Soak the feed or use Hay steamer – Soaking the hay or grain will not necessarily slow down the amount of feed that a horse will consume. However soaking grain can reduce the amount of water soluble carbohydrates which means less calories and fewer calories. Soaked hay or grain will also have less dust and mould particles that a horse could consume.
- Use a Grazing Muzzle – The grazing muzzle is a bucket like device that is designed to slow down fast grazers. It works by restricting the amount of grass a horse can intake in a single bite. A grazing muzzle may be a good short term solution if you are worried about an obese horse.
- Use a feeding tray instead of a bucket – Separating grain or feed on a pan means that the horse is not able to get big mouthfuls in the same way as if he were eating from a bucket.
- Put objects in the feeding bucket/tray – Placing some rocks or other objects in a horse feeding bucket will force the horse to eat around the item to get their grain.
- Separate horses at feeding time – Horses are herd animals and the pack mentality can often kick off a meal time. This means that some horses depending on their status in the herd may feel the need to eat quickly in case they are bullied out of their meal by a more dominant horse. If this is the case try separating horses at feeding time or instead feed horses in their stalls or paddocks where there will be no competition for food.
There are no real drawbacks to trying some of the slow feed 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 suits your horse. Once you find a solution it will hopefully lead to a fitter, healthier, and ultimately happier horse.