|First Posted Jan 31, 2010|
Jul 22, 2010
Slowing Them Down Restricting Free Feeding of Foragesby Shea Porr, Ph.D.
Superintendent, MARE Center
In a Seminar given at the MARE Center on Thursday, Jan 28, 2010, Shea Porr was one of the speakers and was excellent. Her presentation addressed the practice of slowing down a horse's eating by restricting free feeding of forages. She began with the evolution of the horse and concluded with different ways to restrict the horse's free forage. The following is an outline of her presentation and is quite self explanatory:
Isn't Free Choice Hay Good?
Basically the above covered the horse's eating habits--there was a sparcity of food when grazing, the horse had to keep moving in order to get enough forage. The movement was good for the digestive system as well as for exercise. There were weight changes seasonally--winter, summer, spring and fall. Obesity was not a problem.
Speed of Intake/two or three feedings a day with lots of time between and some turnout
In this section Dr. Porr addressed how we feed our horses with rich grains, etc. She noted that our horses do not graze 18 hours a day but rather eat two or three times a day (speed of intake) so their digestive systems are really not working as intended. She also addressed dominance issues in the herd where some horses push the others out and consume much more than their share while others do not get enough food. Since the animals are not constantly moving they do not get the exercise needed and are often fed lush foods year round. All of these problems can lead to health issues such as obesity, insulin resistance, colic, arthritis, etc.
The Guts of the Matter
The above tells us how horses were intended to eat.
By studying the two charts below you can see what happens to the food that your horse eats as well as the statistics on how the gut works. Above are the issues that come into question regarding how domestic horses are fed and the problems that are a result of that.
Body length 164 cm, mean digesta retention = 30 to 35 hours
Free Choice Forages
Restricting Free-Fed Forages
Grills...Not the Cooking Kind...
Nets and Ropes