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Horse Eating Too Fast? Slow It Down!By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · November 25, 2014

Most horses love to eat; that’s normal. However, if your horse eats too much, or too fast, or too intensely, he may be in for some problems. Maybe he chokes, or gets fat, or runs out of hay several hours before the next feeding. As his owner, what can you do to slow him a bit and avoid feed-related problems? Fortunately, there are a number of gadgets you can use to smooth out his consumption of grain, grass, and hay. Each of these inventions decreases the chance of overloading the digestive tract and leads to a more gradual glycemic response as horses eat.  

Slow-feeder grain buckets. A number of feed buckets have been designed to slow down horses that bolt their feed. The designs are slightly different but the effect is the same. A typical slow-feeder bucket has several wells or depressions in the bottom. Each well holds only a little feed, so the horse can’t gobble huge bites of grain. In days gone by, owners would put three or four large rocks in the feed bucket so the horse had to pick out the grain from among these obstacles. The same principle is used in slow-feeder grain buckets.

Slow-feeder hay nets. Instead of just piling the horse’s hay in front of him, owners can put the hay supply into a slow-feeder net made of heavy cord or twine. The openings in the net are much smaller than in standard hay nets, and the horse can pull out only a few wisps of hay with each bite. This slows consumption, making a ration of hay last longer and keeping horses busy over a greater period of time.

Slow-feeder hay bins. Also designed to allow only a few pieces of hay to be eaten at one time, these bulk hay feeders come in a variety of types and sizes. Placed indoors or outside, a slow-feeder hay bin has some type of grid with small access holes. Horses tend to ingest hay more slowly and also waste less in the process.

Hay soaking. This isn’t a gadget, but a technique. Hay can be soaked in hot or cold water for a shorter or longer period of time to remove some of the water-soluble carbohydrates, giving the horse plenty of fiber with fewer calories. An added advantage is that feeding damp hay reduces the number of airborne dust and mold particles released into the horse’s breathing space.

Hay steamers. Instead of soaking hay to remove carbohydrates, owners can place hay in a steamer that not only decreases calories but also inactivates many of the bacteria contained in hay.

Grazing muzzle. This invention consists of a bucket-like device that fits over the horse’s lower face. A small hole in the end allows the horse to eat a few blades of grass with each bite rather than an enormous mouthful. A horse wearing a grazing muzzle can stay in the pasture with his buddies, getting plenty of exercise but eating much less than when he is turned out without the muzzle.

If you have a horse that needs to be slowed down as he eats, consider trying one of these management tools to lower the risk of obesity or digestive upsets.