Slow feeders are a great way to improve your horse’s physical and mental health. In a perfectly ideal world, horses should be given complete access to free choice forage 24 hours a day. Some horses can self-regulate when given this option, but some horses just don’t have that self-control.
A great way to feed both types of horses is with slow feeders. A slow feeder net can stay full for the horses that self-regulate and keeps the hay from getting mixed into the ground. For horse’s who really love to eat they are a great choice to help slow down their eating habits.
1. Forage First
Nutritionist and vets alike will tell you that the most fundamental feeding rules for horse is forage, forage, forage. Horses need to be fed 1.5 – 2% of their body weight in forage a day, even if they are overweight. If you can feed your horse with a quality forage you are on the right track for a successful feeding routine.
2. Less Time Between Feedings
Little and Often is the golden rule of feeding. Since a horse’s stomach only holds between 8 – 12 liters, it doesn’t hold food for long. Food can pass through the stomach in roughly 15 minutes. When a horse’s stomach is empty it becomes very acidic and becomes uncomfortable for the horse.
3. Reduce Risk of Ulcers
Ulcers are sadly an extremely common problem for horses. At least 80% of horses will have gastric ulcers. The horse’s stomach is designed to create acid 24/7, and there is no protective lining that the top of the horse’s stomach to buffer it. On an empty stomach it creates a very acidic environment and ideal for the development of ulcers. One easiest way to help prevent ulcers is by increasing the time the horse is eating, using the food to buffer the stomach acid.
4. Waste Less Hay
Horse can be picky and messy eaters. Roughly 10% of loose hay gets trampled on, not eaten and thrown into the manure pile. It turns into an expensive bedding! Using a slow feeder net helps keep your hay together and not getting mixed in to the ground.
- Minimize Boredom
If your horse could pick at hay all day and night, they are less likely to create stall vices such as cribbing, pawing, and other behavioral issues. Horse typically only sleep for 4 hours a day, and the rest they want to be chewing to reduce the acidy level in their stomach. If they cannot turn to hay they will look for other items to chew on.
6. Increase Digestion
Horses are designed to always have food going through their system while on the move. One of the best ways to mimic nature is to hang slow feeders in various areas. This helps to increase movement which improves hind gut health. This is a great way to help prevent against colic.
7. Weight Management
Even if your horse is an easy keeper, and only needs a little bit of hay to keep weight on. It is important to still feed the minimum amount of hay a day to keep their digestive system healthy. When horses go for a long time between meals, it increases the cortisol levels. As these elevate, insulin rises which leads to fat storage. By keep cortisol levels low and consistent, it can help your horse lose weight. Spikes in cortisol levels can trigger laminitis.
8. Increase Chewing Time
Horses can only create saliva when they have a tactile feeling in their mouth. Unlike dog’s whose mouth can start to water just looking at food. It is important for horses to product saliva as it has high levels of bicarbonate that helps to buffer the stomach’s natural acid.
9. Less Stress
Forage restriction is very stressful for horses. Everyone becomes less stressed when they don’t have to worry about when their next meal is coming. As horse’s stress their cortisol levels rise which leads to other health issues. When horses live as close to a natural feeding program as we can provide their physical and mental health thrive.
10. Easier for You!
When feeding your horse with slow feeders, it makes it easy for clean-up, easy to prep the next meal. That way when it is time to feed you just must clip up your slow feeder and you are good to go. We all feel better when we know our horses are happy and healthy!