If Not Hay, Bedding: Give Horses Something to Chew on Overnight

Study: Horses stalled on nonedible bedding ‘rebounded’ during the day, consuming their daytime rations faster with fewer pauses than horses living on straw.
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If Not Hay, Bedding: Something to Chew on Overnight
Horses housed on straw bedding can maintain their regular feeding behavior by chewing and ingesting this lower-quality roughage overnight. | Photo: iStock

The night hours for stalled horses can seem terribly long, especially when it means there’s nothing to eat until morning. For their health and welfare, horses need to have something to munch on during the night hours, say German scientists—whether it’s a constant supply of forage or the straw they sleep on.

(Editor’s note: Straw should be high quality and, like any forage, introduced slowly. Rye straw can contain ergot alkaloids, which can be poisonous to livestock, including horses. See “Use Caution When Bedding Horses on Rye Straw” for more information. Straw ingestion can also increase impaction colic risk. Consult with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist before making changes to your horse’s diet or introducing edible straw.)

“Feeding practices must take into consideration the natural feeding behavior of horses, ensuring that neither during the day nor at night do horses have to pause their feed intake for longer than four hours,” said Miriam Baumgartner, Dr. med. vet., PostDoc at the Technical University of Munich, Germany; chair of organic agriculture and agronomy in the School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan; and part of the Ethology, Animal Husbandries, and Animal Welfare Research Group

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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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