By Monique Warren
Hay nets and slow feed hay bags are invaluable and effective tools used to slow the rate of consumption and increase chew time. However, horses are often forced to engage in unnatural feeding positions depending on the height they are hung.
In 2021, Italian researchers conducted a study examining the shape variations of the back, neck, and mandibular (jaw) angle of horses based on specific feeding postures using geometric morphometrics - providing scientific evidence of the adverse physical effects of higher/unnatural eating positions compared to ground level. Read on for a condensed version of their findings. A link to the full study appears in the Reference section below.
Photo: Raspa et al. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/3/763/htm
Since its foundation in 1969, The Donkey Sanctuary has grown from a charity rescuing UK donkeys from neglect and abuse to an international welfare organisation transforming the lives of millions of donkeys and mules, and the people who depend on them for a living. Read on to get their expert advice on feeding donkeys straw and hay to manage weight and avoid colic.
Many of us make the switch to slow feeding with good intentions – whether it's to introduce the benefits of trickle feeding, minimize hay waste, or to manage weight. Whether your companions are new to slow feeding or you want to introduce smaller mesh sizes, we have tips and techniques to ease the transition.
Equines that drink excessive amounts of water have not developed a bad habit. They do so because of a health condition or as a coping mechanism. Horses rarely, if ever, do anything that doesn’t have a purpose.
Read on to learn about the possible causes of drinking too much water, associated health risks and potential solutions.
Over the years I've had the pleasure of speaking to thousands of customers and listening to their concerns about obesity, gastric ulcers, boredom and consumption of manure, dirt and shavings for their meal fed horses (or donkeys, mules and grazing barnyard companions). They really want to feed more hay or transition to free-choice to satiate their herd, but they don't have the confidence to make the switch.
Feeding limited amounts of highly palatable/digestible energy hay perpetuates the vicious cycle of much anticipated meals, followed by periods of time without forage. And that's not the way horses were designed to eat. So, the gastric acid discomfort builds up, boredom begins and our horses become increasingly anxious - and sometimes aggressive - come meal time.
Read on to learn how a simple shift in your approach and forage selection can 1) reduce or eliminate meal time stress and 2) give your horse more chew time and bulk (without the weight gain).
As equestrians we face a myriad of obstacles and tasks that ultimately reduce the time we spend with our beloved companions and dwindle our bank accounts. Following are some barn hacks and horse keeping tips that can save you serious time and money!
Hay is the foundation of the majority of horse, donkey and mule diets - yet it rarely includes a nutritional analysis. Most of us would never consider purchasing any type of bagged feed or supplement without a label/nutritional analysis. Testing your hay is the only way to know the nutritional values - allowing you to compensate for deficiencies, imbalances (ratios) and possible excessive components.
A balanced core diet is necessary to achieve optimum health for your horse or herd. Read on to learn how to test your hay, where to send the sample and how to calculate NSCs using the results. Related links are provided to guide you through the process.
Salt is the most crucial mineral required by horses and often overlooked in the equine diet. Despite providing a salt block, the vast majority of equine diets do not provide sufficient sodium.
Salt supplementation is required for optimum health - regardless of the season. It is imperative to: 1) Ensure the minimum requirements are consumed daily in feed; 2) Provide an ample supply of fresh water; and 3) Offer an additional free choice supply of either loose salt or a white salt block. Read on to learn why, when and how much.
Katy Watts is a leading worldwide authority on sugar levels in grass and hay and the conditions that influence them. She has a BS in crop and soil science from Michigan State University. Katy worked as an independent contract researcher performing pesticide efficacy and residue studies and consulting for farmers growing potatoes and grain. When her horses experienced laminitis, she switched her focus to sugar content of grass and hay. Over the next decade, she wrote articles in veterinary journals, conducted cooperative field studies with academics, spoke at numerous veterinary and nutrition conferences, wrote various book chapters and lectured worldwide. Katy is the founder of safergrass.org.
Read on to learn more about Katy's findings from her field studies in her plight as a plant scientist to better understand the factors that contribute to NSC (NonStructual Carbohydrate) levels in plants.
Although Hay Pillow slow feed bags were designed initially for horses, mules and donkeys, our customers quickly found that farm and zoo animals loved eating from them - and enjoyed the same physical and mental benefits. Plus, wasting less hay saves money - and that benefits everyone.
Read on to learn about the numerous benefits and options for your farm and zoo buddies - plus how foraging differs for browsers vs grazers.
I think we can all agree that long thick horse tails are a sight to behold! In an effort to achieve them we commonly braid, wrap and/or use tail bags. Despite the best of intentions, these efforts can cause harm - including hair loss, permanent nerve or muscle damage or, worst of all, amputation.
Read on to learn why your horse's tail is more than an ornament and how keeping it healthy and natural provides benefits and prevents injury.
Meeting your horse's needs for optimal gut health is not the same as meeting his caloric requirements. If your horse is not underweight and basically healthy, suffice it to say his caloric (not necessarily nutrient) requirements are being met. Considering horses are grazing herbivores and their digestive tract is designed for almost continual trickle feeding (16-20 hours a day) of fibrous feeds - the question isn't are you feeding enough calories - but are you feeding in a way that promotes optimal gut health?
Read on to learn why gut health is so important, how common feeding practices affect it, and how to improve it by feeding more in line with your horse's digestive tract design.
Considering horses are grazing herbivores and their digestive tract is designed for almost continual trickle feeding (16-18 hours a day) of fibrous feeds, what best suits the equine physically and mentally as a primary source of forage?
Read on to learn the pros and cons of the various forms of grass hay.
To date, it has become common knowledge to never exercise your horse on an empty stomach. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, little has been published about transporting on an empty stomach.
Considering a horse's natural instincts, transport is inherently stressful. Add to that lack of forage - or lack of access to forage if your hay ends up on the floor - and you've combined two common causes of gastric ulcers. Very alarming - considering ulcers can occur in as little as 24 hours.
Thankfully, you can be proactive by providing forage (hay, pasture or soaked hay pellets) 1) prior to departing, 2) during transport and 3) once you arrive at your destination. Read on to learn why forage (not grain or sweet feed) is crucial for all three scenarios.
Important Exception - if you’ve been instructed to withhold feed due to a medical condition, by all means do so!
Gastric acid is produced continuously by horses, donkeys and mules, whether there is food in the stomach or not. Following are 12 facts about gastric acid - short and to the point. These have been compiled and condensed to provide a better understanding of the physiology, volume, benefits and conditions that occur from the production of gastric acid.
The #1 concern and source of stress for customers I have had the pleasure of speaking with is they worry about their horse “standing around with nothing to eat” or their horses are eating dirt, manure or shavings. This article focuses on the plight to choose the safest, always have hay source to slow feed if you can't test your hay. If you do test, the palatability factors described can still be used to your advantage!
Pawing is an indication something is not okay in the horse’s world. It's body language expressing either 1) mental stress or 2) physical discomfort ranging from anticipation of a treat to painful ulcers. Pain, boredom, frustration, impatience, anxiety, hunger, excess energy and isolation can all be causes of pawing. If the source of mental stress and/or physical pain is not identified and remedied, pawing can eventually become a stereotypy/habit - presenting a whole new set of challenges for both horse and guardian.
Horses rarely do anything that doesn’t have a purpose. They don’t have the mental capacity to ponder and carry out acts intended to be annoying.
Read on to learn more about why horses paw, possible solutions, and how the source of pawing can be misconstrued.
I’m an err on the side of caution horse guardian; therefore I avoid administering vaccines, sedatives or dewormers at the same time and document information ranging from an individual’s “normal” vital signs to what type and how much of a sedative/tranquilizer produces successful results with no adverse reactions (i.e. sweating or looking like they might fall over!). My records help me determine optimal baselines and doses for each horse, which makes routine care easier on my horses – and me.
Read on to learn about critical information to keep on hand and what to consider if a combination of tasks/treatments are scheduled in the same visit from your vet - or administered by yourself.
Sand colic is digestive upset resulting from the accumulation of ingested sand and dirt. It occurs when particles sink to the bottom of the intestines where abrasion irritates the intestinal lining and causes discomfort. Sand Colic is estimated to be responsible for approximately 30% of colic cases.
Read on to learn the most effective means for removal and the best way to prevent the accumulation of sand.
Winter can be challenging for equines and their guardians. Keeping warm is often a valid concern - yet there are differences in how horses and people cope with lower temperatures.
Read on to learn common misconceptions about the cold and how to stoke internal body heat while providing a healthier, natural lifestyle for your herd.
The most common causes of gastric (stomach) ulcers are lack of forage and stress. Gastric ulcers can develop in as little as 24 hours - and recur in 24 hours respectively. Given the short period of time for recurrence, administering medication (Omeprazole, Ranitidine or Cimetidine) without addressing the cause(s) can be counterproductive. If your horse does not have ulcers, this article may bring to light stress factors you may not be aware of.
What inspired me to write this article? Speaking to countless customers whose beloved companions have ulcers - yet who were unaware of how the horse’s current lifestyle and/or feeding schedules were adding to the stress factors that may have caused the ulcers.
Read on to learn about important lifestyle and feeding practices that can minimize the chance of occurrence and/or recurrence of ulcers. Causes are truly multi dimensional - encompassing both mental and physical factors.
By Monique Warren
Last Updated December 30, 2019. Originally published June 15, 2016.
Slow feeding requires the horse to eat smaller amounts over a longer period of time. This concept simulates natural free-choice foraging - and provides a host of benefits you might not be aware of.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are meals consumed by humans but are not natural for a horse. Equines are grazing herbivores with a digestive system designed for - and benefiting from - constant uptake.
If your equine does not have forage available 24/7 - and is fed traditional "meals" - consider implementing a slow-feeding program to keep them nibbling longer. Read on to learn about slow feeder options and the nine ways your horse can benefit from a slow-feed program.
Let’s face it, in a 24-hour period most of our beloved equines get only one to four hours of mental and/or physical engagement with a human. What they do for the remaining 20-23 hours a day is up to them to figure out (if not provided with opportunities to engage their natural instincts) – and so the boredom and vices set in.
Luckily, we've rounded up 11 tips and toys to help beat the boredom blues and provide natural enrichment for horses during their down time - whether they are on stall rest or in a pasture, pen, or paddock.
Fecal egg counts derived from fecal flotation tests - are a common method for determining parasite levels in horses, which can then influence how often a particular horse is wormed and what class of wormer to administer. As helpful as this information is - it unfortunately doesn't tell us the whole story. Fecal tests will not identify Pin Worms, Bots or Neck Threadworms. These parasites either do not reside in and/or lay eggs in the digestive tract making it impossible to detect their presence from a fecal sample.
Adult Tapeworms and Ascarids, despite residing in the digestive tract, can go undetected if adult worms present are not actively shedding eggs at that point in their reproductive cycle. In addition, a fecal egg count cannot reveal evidence of an existing population of Encysted Small Strongyles or Ascarid and Large Strongyle migrating larvae or immature adults within the horse.
Read on to learn about some common equine parasites not revealed by fecal tests, including where they reside and/or reproduce, their life cycle, and why a fecal flotation test is not a be-all end-all detector of potential parasite burdens.
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