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Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    My horse always acts like he is starving to death and he is a “gobbler” when he eats. I have always been afraid that he will cause himself to colic. An old horseman suggested that I put large rocks in my horse’s grain bucket to force him to eat slowly. Is this guy crazy or will this help?

  • A:

    Many horses gobble their feed. This is a condition often referred to as bolting their feed. Horses that bolt their feed run the risk of choking. The act of chewing adds saliva to the feed, which lubricates it and enables it to be swallowed.

     

    If horses are not chewing their feed properly and adequate saliva is not added, the dry feed material can be lodged in the esophagus. Occasionally horses can clear the obstruction from the esophagus, but most will require veterinary intervention to resolve the problem. Your old horseman friend has offered a practical solution to your horse’s habit of consuming the grain portion of his diet too rapidly.

     

    Simply adding large rocks to the feed bucket will force the horse to eat more slowly. The rocks should be large in size to prevent the horse from swallowing them. Another solution may be to offer the horse the hay portion of its diet prior to feeding grain. This will serve to fill the horse’s stomach prior to the grain being fed.

     

    Continuous grazing is the natural feeding behavior of horses and most horses provided with that opportunity will be content to eat their feed slowly. Providing continuous access to grass hay will help to satisfy a horse that does not have access to pasture but the type of hay fed becomes very important.

     

    Free access to alfalfa hay will certainly make the horse happy, but depending on its activity level (or lack of activity) it may make the horse fat. Feeding smaller amounts of high calorie, dairy quality alfalfa may leave the horse feeling hungry and encourage bolting.

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