RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: FEEDING 4
So if you are feeding all or mostly grass / hay you should be seeing that glowing glassy coat, internal glowing health and that nice elastic flexible forage diet movement horses have, swinging along freely & smoothly rather than stiffly.
There are some important factors to remember always along the way:
Always store feed in a cool, dry, clean environment and make sure you don't buy from a produce store that has left bags out in the heat, sun or rain. Hard feed, if fed, can't be kept in a hot shed. It will turn rancid and could cause colic, laminitis or death. Often just smelling it cannot determine conclusively if it is still good so being proactive and cautious is essential. Make sure you always keep your feed bags stored in a cool, dry place and never feed any food that has gotten damp or wet.
Be careful when storing molasses. If it is straight and not watered down it is fine for long periods, but the moment you mix it with water it can turn and go off within a day or 2.
Never store or feed from rusting metal feedbins and be aware of rusting feedbins & fittings and replace so your horse doesn't consume rust.
If feeding pellets of any kind you need to dampen these down well and allow time for them to finish swelling before feeding or they can swell in the horses belly after being eaten and cause serious blockages, choking & colic. Never feed on their own, always with chaff as with all grain. The same rules apply when feeding any feed that swells when wet.
Many pellets, especially the ones for fattening are often full of soy bean meal, which can send horses bodies into shock if fed too much, too suddenly. Be very careful with Soy Bean Meal or pellets containing it.
When feeding horses, never suddenly change their feed. This alone can cause colic and death. Horses have a very sensitive digestive system which can be seriously impacted or affected by many things.
Things to be aware of: Never change a horses temperature then feed, i.e. take a rug off when it is very cold to groom then feed, or put a very heavy rug on then feed straight away, hose a horse then feed etc. give the horse 15 minutes to adjust to the temperature change.
You should always wait 1 hour before feeding any grain after strong exercise to avoid colic.
Horses are also physically affected by stress, so if their friend has just left and you feed grain they may get colic. In this instance it is best to avoid grain and stick to lucern hay, hay or grass in stressful times. When horses are shifted to a new home it is extremely stressful for the horse. They have been torn away from friends and family and will be extremely distraught. You should take time to be gentle and console them and feed only lucern, hay and grass. If you have to feed some grain / feed, you should not introduce this until after about 1 week and do so very gradually, starting with very tiny portions and increasing very slowly over 2 weeks.
You will definitely have less issues overall though if you stick to hays, chaffs and grasses only.
Always check for rodent droppings or dampness before feeding anything and get rid of any contamination or contaminated area. Just because a horse eats it doesn't mean it's safe.
When opening bags be very careful of the string that binds the top falling into feed or the small sack strings and particles, these can cause serious colic and complications if eaten.
Make sure you are aware of poisonous plants to horses. Make sure where you buy your hay from doesn't have poisonous weeds in their hay. It is very difficult for horses to discern between grass and poisonous weeds when it is cured and all mixed together, looking and tasting so similar when cured, so be vigilant with your hay and always watch for poisonous plants.
You need to also watch for small rodents, bird dropping and feathers etc. being caught up in hay bales or stuck in bales rotting and contaminating the hay. This can seriously harm horses causing colic or death if eaten. Always check bales for bad smells and heat which also indicates either dampness or contamination.
Always store your hay on dry, clean boards, wood, plastic, rubber, feedbags / other, not just on dirt. Or the bottom bales will draw the dirt into the bottom along with moisture and be un-usable.
Be careful also, if you use rat or rodent poisons around the property, that affected dead rodents don't infect bales.
Some people dunk or wet down hay just before feeding but if you do this and the horse doesn't eat it straight away it can become rancid very fast especially in hot climates. It is better to just make sure horses have good access to good clean water always and feed dry.
Things that are exceptionally dangerous in regards to feeding and horses is over feeding grain, feeding 'off' or contaminated food, feeding feeds that are not natural to horses, too much sugar, too much starch, too much protein, acidic foods, non herbivore foods, feeding when stressed.
You should also be vigilant to remove feed that has been available but is still with the horse after 24 hours. It has had opportunity to be contaminated by rodents, birds, heat or dampness and just the horses saliva while eating is enough to cause dampness enough to cause the feed to go off. Horses can die from consuming off feed or get serious colic or serious laminitis etc.
Feeding horses is never to be taken lightly. If feeding hay on the ground, never put on top of old hay piles, manure or urination spots or horses won't eat it, horses often urinate on their hay too, and it could be dirty or damp and will infect the new hay and if eaten cause sickness, or it could be not eaten at all because the horse can smell the old hay and assumes the whole pile is dodgy so won't touch it and go without food.
If you have to feed hay piles or feed to multiple horses in 1 paddock at he same time always put out 1 more extra pile or feed than number of horses and space 3 horse lengths at least apart and avoid corners of paddocks so horses don't get cornered in and hurt by others and to ensure the bottom horses of the hierarchy get food too. Paddock hierarchy changes a lot and often, the horses have their own little soap operas ongoing also so be aware of any dynamics that are causing a horse not to eat etc.
Always make sure feed and bins are accessible to horses easily and they don't have to strain their necks or posture to eat, but can relax and eat. Feedbins should be washed daily with water. Never use any cleaning product on horse feed or water bins, only water.
You should feed where they are happiest to eat, they will often want you to put their feed in places they can stand near or see their friends. If you put the horses feed way over the other side of a paddock away from where they like to generally stand they often won't eat much. For picky eaters you may need to move their feedstuffs around until you find the "happy spots", but watching your horse and where it most likes to stand or rest is generally the best spot for feed.
A regular routine also helps picky eaters. Or feeding their friends when you feed them, nearby etc. Some have bin preferences, some prefer to eat off the ground etc, etc. Watch and communicate with your horse and they will often indicate to you what they want, i.e. you walk up with feedbin and they go and stand in one spot (which is not closest to you approaching) and stamp, meaning "I want to eat here please".
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