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?