Page 104 - March 2020
P. 104

                  VETERINARY VIEWS
102 SPEEDHORSE March 2020
Not all horses have the luxury of spend- ing time on green pasture, head down, grazing to their heart’s content. Horses
in race training are usually stabled in restric- tive living arrangements with their primary forage source as hay. Yet, the healthiest strategy for equine gastrointestinal health is the ability to eat small amounts at intermittent intervals throughout the day. There is an abundance
of information on how best to control against gastric ulcers and behavioral problems: Turn the horse out to graze on pasture. So, how does one accomplish this if acreage and pasture are not options?
When most horses are fed large amounts in two meals a day, they tend to bolt the food in a short time, at most an hour or
two. Then they are forced to fast through the rest of the day or night until the next meal arrives. This is not at all how the equine digestive system evolved to maximum efficiency. To keep the equine digestive tract at its healthiest, a horse should receive 1 1⁄2
- 2 percent of his body weight in roughage (fiber) each day when possible. [Some easy keepers may become obese on this much
hay, while others, particularly those in active training and competition, have higher food requirements due to breed type, disposition, and exercise demands.]
Typical roughage sources are available
as pasture, hay, or complete feed pellets. Alternative fiber sources are obtainable (soybean hulls, beet pulp, rice hulls, corn cobs, chaff, and straw), but these don’t necessarily alter the need to provide horses with the ability to be “trickle feeders.”
Instead of being fed 2-3 relatively large meals in a 24-hour period, it is better for
a horse to have the opportunity to nibble periodically throughout the day and night. Ideally, a horse offered free choice hay would control his intake, eating only as much as he
by Nancy S. Loving, DVM
needs to maintain the perfect body condition. But some individuals won’t stop eating – excesses of an optimal calorie allotments result in obesity.
Feed intake by voracious eaters can be slowed by using a “slow feeder” or “nibble net.” These feeding systems are comprised of either
a container that is hung on the wall or a box or frame feeding system on the ground that forces a horse to work at getting hay out from between closely-knit netting or wire mesh.
For horses in a large dry lot turnout, an alternative is to use a mesh sleeve that fits around a large bale of hay. For some horses, double “bagging” the hay bale in a net feeder further reduces the mesh size and makes
it more challenging to extract hay. Many commercial slow feeders are built with 1 1⁄2 -2-inch mesh, but some crafty horses may needitsizeddownto11⁄4oreven1mesh.If you use a slow feeder bag or net, make sure the top closes tightly so the horse can’t pull large amounts out from the top but rather is forced to eat only from the mesh openings. For horses that become facile in eating from the mesh, you can hang the feeding bag from the stall rafters on a breakable rope, so it isn’t braced against a firm surface. It is then more difficult for the horse to get a purchase on it, further slowing intake.
 Feed intake by voracious eaters can be slowed by using a “slow feeder” or “nibble net.”

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