Feeding Your New HorseBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · November 18, 2011
After weeks, months, or years of searching, you’ve finally found the horse of your dreams. You can’t wait to get him home and settled in to your barn. But before you get too anxious to put him on your perfect program, formulate a plan to make changes in his nutrition as smooth as possible.
The horse's gastrointestinal tract is a delicate system of organs that contain fragile populations of microorganisms, and any sudden dietary insult can cause this system to cave. Any extreme change in feeding routine may induce abdominal distress or colic.
Prior to purchasing a horse, it may be wise to ask about the horse's feed-related history. Some of these questions might include:
- What type and how much hay and/or concentrate does the horse receive daily?
- How many meals per day does the horse eat? One, two, or more?
- Did the horse have access to pasture on a regular basis? What was the quality of that pasture (lush pasture versus drylot)?
- Does the horse receive any supplements?
- Has the horse shown any feed-related allergies?
- Has the horse ever colicked, foundered, or had any other feed-related issues?
If possible, the buyer should try to acquire some hay and concentrates (textured or pelleted feed) from the former owner. Switching the horse to new feeds can be accomplished slowly. Owners should begin by feeding the familiar hay and then gradually adding more and more of the new forage over a period of several days.
If the horse displays any signs of colic during the transition period, contact a veterinarian immediately. Be sure to tell the veterinarian about changes in the horse's diet.
Horses sometimes will not drink unfamiliar water, particularly if it's from a source they are unaccustomed to such as an automatic waterer. If you’re unsure whether or not the horse is drinking from an automatic waterer, watch the animal following hay and grain meals, and also offer a traditional bucket that will allow you to more readily monitor intake.