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Our nutrition expert offers advice for ensuring free-fed horses don’t overeat hay.
Posted by Clair Thunes, PhD | Jan 13, 2020
Q:I started free-feeding grass hay to my horses about three weeks ago, and they haven’t slowed down a bit. In addition to their free-feeding, they get a small amount of alfalfa hay (about 5 pounds each day, divided into morning and evening feedings) and a flax-based supplement and multivitamin. When will they stop pigging out on the day on the hay, and are there any signs of concern I should look for?
A:Kudos to you for wanting to feed your horses in a way that aligns more closely with their digestive anatomy and physiology. It can be a little scary to watch your horses gorge day after day. The majority of horses do self-regulate after several weeks. Some do so more quickly and some take longer. Of course, there are always the exceptions to the rule who just do not self-regulate.
It is important to pay attention to your horse’s body condition and weight. I would recommend performing a condition score and weight estimate on your horses every two weeks so that you can determine objectively if any are gaining weight. Some horses might be gorging and yet their weight might not change. Excessive weight gain, especially in breeds at risk of metabolic disorders, is always a concern no matter how hay is fed. Pay particular attention to the formation of neck crest fat...
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