Bucket Tipper Tips: How to Prevent Horse Feed Waste

Do you have a messy horse that dumps her feed in the dirt? Try these tips to make sure she gets the nutrition she needs.
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feed bucket sitting in tire
Placing a feed bucket inside a car tire can make it difficult for a horse to tip. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Clair Thunes

Q. My mare lives in a pasture and is fed ration balancer and supplements daily. However, she keeps tipping over the bucket and spilling her feed on the ground. This is not only a waste of feed (and money) but she then eats dirt and other things as she eats off the ground. What can I do to keep her feed in the bucket?

A. This is a frustrating but common horse habit. If the bucket has a flat back, you might be able to hang it safely from the fence, with the flat side against the fence. However, the top of the bucket would need to be at the point of your horse’s shoulder to be the correct height, and this might be hard to achieve. Having it at this height and no lower makes it harder for the horse to put her foot in it. Additionally, avoid hanging feed buckets on fences that could injure your mare’s legs if she were to paw while eating (a common behavior).

If you can’t hang the bucket in a safe way, you might try a feed tub designed to sit or hang on a fence rail. However, horses can easily tip these feeders off the fence if they aren’t secure.

If you’re using a regular water bucket or smaller round bucket, your horse might not like how deep and narrow it is. Some horses like to move their feed around, which isn’t possible with this type of bucket. You might find that a wide, flat rubber pan is better and that she doesn’t tip it over as often.

Another option many people find effective is to place a bucket inside of a car tire. You will have to experiment with the size and type of bucket that fits snugly in the tire. There are some saucer-shaped feed pans that fit very well inside them. Tires are heavy, making it almost impossible for horses to pick up the bucket and tip it over with their teeth. Similarly, it’s hard to tip over should they paw or step on the bucket.

Regardless of what type of bucket you use, I suggest putting a rubber mat under the bucket when you feed. This way, if your horse does tip her bucket over and feed comes out, she’ll be eating the spilled feed off a rubber mat rather than dirt. This will help reduce sand colic risk, as well as prevent throwing your money away on lost feed.

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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