My quest to offer slow fed free choice forage began in 2008 because I had an insulin-resistant mare, Lily, that I was determined to keep happy and healthy. While researching and learning the importance of slow feeding, and eating from ground level, I could not find a slow feeder to purchase that was 1) safe, and 2) slowed down my horse’s consumption rate enough. In addition, ease of “loading” and the weight of the feeder became key challenges. And so began my 4 year experimental journey of creating a slow feeder that met my needs.
During that time I bought, designed, built and prototyped a variety of slow feeders and slow feed hay bags for my and Lily's use. Following are the pros and cons I discovered while experimenting with my own version of each slow feeder type: hard-sided, webbing mesh, and netting.
Are your activities scheduled around - and limited by - your feeding schedule? Are you feeding multiple times throughout the day and night? If so, consider yourself a prisoner of feeding (POF)!
Is there a way to free yourself? Absolutely! You will be happier and your herd will love you for it. More relaxed herd = more relaxed guardians and vice versa.
For most of us, we become a POF because we don't want our beloved equines to be overweight or without forage for an extended period of time. And so the multiple feedings begin! I too was a POF: getting up early to feed in the morning, making sure I was home to feed lunch, and feeding late in the evening hours (horses only sleep 3-4 hours throughout a 24 hour period).
Miniature horses and donkeys - also known as minis - are some of the cutest creatures you will ever see. But don't let that special stature fool you - whether your mini is for showing, therapy, or a pasture ornament and best friend - they are essentially a scaled-down version of their full-sized counterparts.
And when it comes to nutritional needs and feeding protocols - that means a slow fed, forage-based diet is key. Read on to learn more about why a slow feed strategy is best for your mini and to find answers to common miniature horse diet questions.
Hay is a whole food, right? It is if naturally cured prior to baling - otherwise it contains preservatives, which may have adverse effects on you and your horse’s health.
The moisture content of hay is monitored prior to baling. With too little moisture, hay becomes brittle, loses nutritional value, and can potentially become unpalatable. Too much moisture can cause hay to mold and experience thermal expansion in storage severe enough to cause combustion creating a severe fire hazard.
Following are 7 helpful tips and realistic expectations to consider when using any brand of slow feeder or small mesh hay net. This is valuable information whether you currently use slow feeders or are debating to try them!
Proper identification during an emergency/evacuation can help reunite you with your equine companion(s) as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, we're all being reminded of the power of natural disasters – and how devastating the impacts can be. Post Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and the wildfires in the west, should remind us we never know when the next fire, flood, hurricane, or earthquake can leave us with only moments to act.
Is a horse mentally comfortable in a cozy stall with shavings or a shelter with sides? Probably not.
Horses are prey animals; their main form of defense is flight which requires sight and sound to detect predators in conjunction with other herd members standing guard and alerting each other. A horse may experience psychological tension if by themselves and/or sight and sound are impaired.
Read on to learn more about why a horse's mental comfort often times takes priority over perceived physical comfort!
Chewing is essentially self-medication for the horse. Chewing, or self-medicating, is most likely due to discomfort - stemming from physical and/or mental stress from lack of forage.
Chewing activates saliva production, which buffers gastric acid. The stomach produces acid 24/7 to prepare for constant uptake of food. Approximately 75% of foodstuff passes through the stomach within 30 minutes of consumption. Once feed stuff travels to the small intestine, the stomach continues to produce acid with or without food present. Chewing effectively buffers gastric acid - and can give some relief even without food.
Colic is responsible for more deaths in horses than any disease group except for old age. In the domestic population, horse mortality from all types of colic was 0.7 deaths per 100 horses per year [i]. Despite its common occurrence, the cause is rarely diagnosed.
Following are 7 easily implemented measures to decrease the risk of colic:
Learn about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of eating in a natural grazing position & more when you feed your horse from the ground.
The vicious cycle of meal fed, hungry hoovers can be remedied. We feed meals due to convenience or concerns about a horse's weight - and rightfully so. Obesity promotes inflammation and a host of other health challenges. However, meals restrict access to forage, which presents its own adverse effects - both mentally and physically. In this post, we'll discuss alternative approaches to feeding that can lead to happier, healthier horses and less stress at feeding time.
Take advantage of the least palatable varieties of forage to naturally slow consumption rate by feeding them seperately. Immature cuttings of cool season grasses and alfalfa are very palatable and highly digestible (more concentrated source of calories per pound). For most horses, donkeys, goats and other barnyard buddies if you blend palatable and less palatable varieties it will result in the same enthusiasm and rate of consumption.
Provide your equine with forage prior to and during prolonged exercise. While trail riding, offer the opportunity to graze along the way.
Fiber creates a mat of sorts which prevents acid splashing in the stomach. The equine stomach produces acid 24 hours a day (16 gallons!) in preparation for constant uptake and can empty in as little as 15-20 minutes. Chewing activates saliva production (an alkaline substance rich in bicarbonate), which buffers gastric acid. An empty stomach allows unbuffered gastric acid to slosh and bathe its lining causing discomfort and may induce ulcers. (Learn more about how forage helps buffer gastric acid and prevent ulcers.)
February 10, 2012 was the day a very sad realization occurred to me. One of the large contributing factors to our economic decline is that jobs are outsourced to other countries; white and blue collar.
Having completed the prototype process for my new product, I was excited to find wholesale suppliers to start production.
Some horses paw or are aggressive at feeding time. This is more than likely due to frustration and/or pain. They are anxious to self-medicate; their stomach does not feel well due to the build-up of acid and/or painful gastric ulcers. Once they start chewing and eating they experience relief. Read on to find out why.
If your horse attacks their hay or herd mates for food, this is not "normal". They may be Insulin Resistant - a voracious appetite is one of the many signs of IR. Or they are stressed due to waiting for and receiving meals - instead of always having forage available.
If your current "slow feeder" is not slow enough, it will take time and experimentation to supply your equine with a limited amount of hay AND have it available 24/7.
The purpose of this article is to inform equine guardians of the potential for unhealthy levels of nitrates in hay to increase awareness that will lead to change. You can’t see smell or taste nitrates. They can lurk in the prettiest, greenest best smelling bale of hay. The only way to know the levels you are feeding is to test your forage. It is optimum to test prior to purchase.
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