Slow Feeders

Boredom for horses can cause health issues such as weight gain, ulcers, stall vices, bickering or fighting between horses, and even colic. Find out how slow feeders can help.
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As I talked about last week, boredom for horses can cause health issues such as weight gain, ulcers, stall vices (chewing, pawing, weaving), bickering or fighting between horses, and even colic. Last week I talked a bit about horse toys. This week I’m going to cover another option to help deal with boredom: slow feeders.

Slow feeders are a novel approach to feeding horses. In my travels while doing Horses for Clean Water work I’ve seen a variety of approaches and talked with a number of people who’ve implemented some type of slow feeder system and are pleased with the results. Basically, slow feeders are a means to offer restricted yet free-choice forage for the horse. There are a number of ways to approach this, and I’ll cover a few here.

The easiest way is to feed smaller, more frequent meals mimicking a horse’s natural behavior. Even going to three to five meals a day would be an improvement for a creature designed by nature to eat many small, frequent meals over the course of a day. Another simple option would be to leave out additional, lower-quality hay (high-fiber, low-non-structural carbohydrate) for your horse to browse on during the day, giving them more “chew time.” A short-coming to this approach is that horses often waste hay when they have a surplus of it.

hay net for slow feeding
Hay net for slow feeding. | Photo: Alayne Blickle

To beat the wasted hay/bored horse conundrum, different kinds of slow feeders can be made or purchased to break up the monotony during the day and simulate a more natural feeding environment. Automatic feeders with slots for up to six (or more) feedings are a pricier, but reliable way to do this. This kind of system gives the horse multiple small feedings over the course of a day, more like their feral relatives on the plains

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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