How long should you wait to ride after feeding your horse?
For many years, conventional wisdom said you should wait an hour. Kind of like what your mother told you when you wanted to swim after lunch. Of course, your mother told you that because she wanted to lie in the sun and read her book, not because you would get stomach cramps and sink to the bottom of the pool.
Horses and feeding are a lot like that. This “best practice” came from a time when most people fed high sugar, cereal-based diets. Many of the complete feeds today are beet-pulp based. And current research suggests that feeding your horse long stem forage (like beet pulp) before riding is preferably to riding a horse with an empty stomach.
Horses evolved to graze continuously; having a full stomach keeps gastric acids that are in the lower part of the stomach from splashing and irritating the upper sections of the gastrointestinal tract. It also stimulates saliva production, and saliva acts as a buffer to stomach acids.
Most nutritionists still recommend that you not feed a large grain-based meal before a hard workout. But, giving your horse some hay and a light meal, then warming up slowly shouldn’t cause any harm. And think of endurance horses, who eat multiple times throughout a race (mostly high quality forage). Zelda certainly thinks that a few bites of grass along a ride are essential to her well being.
Even though they day I took this photo, Zelda tried to tell me that I hadn’t given her enough time to eat, she survived her after breakfast ride without any ill effects.
FWIW, I always feed hay before I grain and if I’m going to ride hard, will give my horses only enough to make them think they’ve eaten. I always warm up with at least 10 minutes of walking, so if I ride after feeding and grooming, the horse has time to start digesting. Years ago, a fellow boarder ripped me a new one because I fed the horses late (my daughter was sick). Although her horse ate less than a quart of Blue Seal Trotter, she refused to ride him less than an hour after he’d eaten.
What about you? How long after feeding do you ride?