Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Two European Slow Feeders for Horses Compared

On average it took horses about 30% longer to eat from both slow feeders compared to the ground, researchers found.

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Two European Slow Feeders for Horses Compared
On average it took horses about 30% longer to eat from both slow feeders compared to the ground, researchers found.. | Photo: iStock
Slowing the rate that a horse eats his hay is good for his health and welfare. Not only does it take up more of his free time, staving off boredom and mimicking natural grazing conditions, but it also makes him chew more. More chewing means better digestion in a species equipped with a particularly sensitive digestive system.

As the concept grows within the industry, so does the selection of slow-feeders. That’s why scientists in Switzerland recently tested two popular slow-feeders and compared them to each other and to ground feeding. They found that both work equally well—and that both were much better in slowing consumption and increasing chewing than ground feeding.

“In the feeders we saw with our study population, the positives and negatives essentially evened out,” said Margaux Reboul Salze, MSc, researcher on internship at the Agroscope research center at the Swiss National Stud, in Avenches. “While slow feeders have definite advantages over ground feeding, the best choice of slow feeder will really come down to whatever criteria matter most to the handlers.”

In their study of eight horses (seven stallions and one gelding), the researchers fed horses their daily hay rations in three ways: on the ground and via two commercial slow-feeders. The “B&M” slow feeder dispenses feed through a metal grill-like structure lying over a metal trough attached to a wall. The “HeuToy” feeder releases hay through several 5-inch-wide holes in a metal half-cylinder distributor attached vertically to a wall. Under the direction of Anja Zollinger, BSc, scientific collaborator at Agroscope, Reboul Salze, and Vera Hofer, BSc, presented their work at the 2017 Swiss Equine Research

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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