Why Most Horses Prefer To Eat Outside If Given The Choice
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!
Horses are stoic by nature and don’t always exhibit outward signs of stress because that would make them more vulnerable to prey appearing as a weak individual in the herd. Providing multiple locations to eat from encourages movement and allows them to choose where they are most mentally comfortable. An enclosed confining area (stall or shed with sides) would be most human’s choice for physical and mental comfort in the elements, but we are not prey!
My very vocal mare taught me this concept and it all made sense. She had a stall that included a 2 acre turnout. When it rained I provided multiple hanging bags in her stall, no hay outside. Even though she had slow fed free choice hay she would nicker to me when I refilled the bags that were getting low. It finally occurred to me she might want to eat outside. I hung additional Hanging Hay Pillows in her turnout and she immediately walked outside and started eating in the rain. Her mental comfort took priority over any physical comfort she experienced in the stall. She will choose to eat in the stall only if the elements are extreme. Interesting feedback from customers duplicates my experience - if they provide hay outside and in a stall or shelter with an adjacent turnout, the horses will often choose to go outside in the elements to eat.
Providing your herd with appropriate shelter from the elements with free choice forage available in multiple locations (see our slow feed solutions for any environment) gives them the opportunity to be as mentally comfortable as possible and encourages a more natural lifestyle.
Helpful How-to Resources for Slow Feeding
- Can Horses Eat More Hay Without Weight Gain? The Surprising Factors
- Sand Colic - The Surprising (Simple) Cure & Prevention
- How to Introduce & Incorporate Free-Choice Forage: A Detailed Action Plan
- Slow Feed Solutions for Any Environment
- 6 Great Reasons to Feed Your Horse from Ground Level
- 9 Benefits of Slow Feeding Horses
- 7 Slow Feed Dos and Dont's for Horses
- 7 Easy Ways to Help Prevent Colic
- Never Exercise Horses on an Empty Stomach...Ever
- Why You Shouldn't Transport Horses On An Empty Stomach
- Keeping Horses Warm Naturally – Internally and Externally