I used to be a real feed Nazi. I wanted my horses fed on a schedule and was sure that deviating from one would cause real issues. I imagined colic . . . or worse.
I contemplated how much I’ve changed from that person as I skied over to the barn this morning to feed. It was snowing so hard that school was canceled and I got a late start, arriving about 9 a.m., an hour later than I normally show up. I remembered a time eight or so years ago when I showed up at the barn on an equally snow day at the same time and was just livid that the horses hadn’t been fed yet.
So, what changed?
Over time I discovered that the horses survived just fine when they weren’t fed at exactly the same time each day. In the summer, as a barn we fed late in the day; in the winter, or when it rained, we often fed early. At a co-op barn life sometimes got in the way and it wasn’t always possible for the person feeding to get there at the same time every day.
I started feeding differently, too. When I boarded at a full care barn, hay was rationed. A few flakes at night, a few in the morning and I never saw how much they got during the day. Now that I bought my own hay, I was able to feed more of it so that during the day the horses had enough hay to keep them busy in between meals.
Later, I started letting the horses stay out at night with access to their stalls. Once they weren’t standing inside waiting for me to show up, they seemed far less concerned about when they got their breakfast. They spent most of their time outside and ambled over taking their own sweet time when meals were served.
In fact, once we started having a more relaxed feeding schedule, the horses seemed to relax more, too. They didn’t anticipate being fed and so they didn’t get anxious around feeding time.
Today, we feed within a range of hours. None of the horses have complained, none has coliced. They are more relaxed and it makes me more relaxed, too.
How about you?
One thought on “Feeding Regimes — How Regimented is Yours?”
Growing up our horses always went outside from around 8-4pm. Then I started leasing a barn that had stalls that opened up directly into the pastures. The horses could just come and go as they pleased and it seemed to take away all the anxiety that came with feed time. Sometimes I would pull up to feed grain and throw hay and they wouldn’t even come up to the barn. They were out eating and enjoying themselves. I was convinced my horses were happier so much so that when we built our barn we designed it in a similar way.
There are dutch doors that open up right into sacrifice areas which then filter into bigger fields if the weather is good enough. The horses can go in the stalls if they want but can be outside 24/7 if they want. If I am running late from work and it is raining or snowing I know they can get in and out freely and it makes me a lot less stressed! Horses seem to be calmer and not so worried about food. I do not vary much beyond an hour or so simply because I do have eight horses that depend on me but if I am late they don’t seem to mind.