Go Easy on the Grain
“Studies have shown that larger
volumes of grain are associated with
colic, and just feeding grain increases
the odds,” says Kivett.
Make high-quality forage (hay
and/or pasture) the foundation of
your horse’s diet, and feed the least
amount of grain necessary to maintain
healthy weight and condition.
When you do feed grain, smaller
amounts fed more often are much
easier on the horse’s digestive system
than a large amount at one time. Split
the grain into equal amounts (no more
than about five pounds at a time) and
feed at evenly spaced intervals.
Everyone knows horses need plenty
of clean, fresh water, but are you
doing everything possible to encour-
age optimal hydration?
Make sure your horse’s water
source is fresh and cool, not in the
direct sun. Check it daily, even if you
have automatic waterers.
Adding electrolytes to your horse’s
feed will drive horses to drink more
year-round, not just in hot weather.
Your horse should still have access
to a salt block, even if you give him
Get ‘em Outside
Allowed to live as nature intended, a
horse will spend as much as 18 hours
a day eating, and may cover several
miles a day in search of forage and
water sources. Life in a stall or small
corral where a horse is fed twice a
day goes completely against how the
horse’s body was meant to function,
and can put a horse at increased risk
“One of the best things you can
do for your horse is allow 24-hour
turnout,” says Kivett. “This is because
they have constant access to forage,
continued movement (which is
related to gastrointestinal motility),
and reduced stress.”
Even if your horse doesn’t have pasture, you can still
improve his turnout conditions in a dry lot. Have hay, water
and feed in separate places to encourage movement through-
out the day.
If your horse is on a dry lot, a slow feeder for hay is recom-
Don’t Get Down and Dirty
mended, particularly for easy keepers that tend to get fat. A
slow feeder prevents the horse from eating quickly or taking large bites, so the
hay you put out lasts much longer. This is ideal for normal digestive health and
prevents the horse from being without forage for hours at a time, which can lead
to gastrointestinal troubles.
Where and how you feed has a lot to do with how much sand and dirt your
It’s common on many farms to feed grain in the paddock in tubs on the ground
or buckets along the fence. When horses drop or spill grain, they will eat it off
the ground, usually picking up sand or dirt.
If you feed outside, do so in an area where you can put down rubber mats, and
keep them swept off. This way any spilled grain won’t fall in the dirt. The same goes
for alfalfa hay; you don’t want the horse picking those tiny leaves out of the sand.
“Once sand is in the horse, it’s pretty difficult to get out, so the idea is to pre-
vent accumulation,” says Kivett.
Take Care of Those Teeth
For digestion to proceed properly, your horse’s teeth have to be able to do their
job of grinding the food.
Don’t wait for your horse to have trouble eating. Schedule an annual dental
exam with your vet or an equine dental practitioner to keep your horse’s mouth
in good shape and to address sharp points and any other issues before they cause
If you use feeders and hay nets, don’t place them up high so the horse has to
reach up to eat. The horse’s lower jaw is not properly aligned when he is eating
from a high position. Horses were designed to eat at ground level, so try to
mimic this when you use feeders. However, don’t tie hay nets so low that a foot
can get caught. Better yet, use small-hole hay nets.
When the horse eats with his head down, his lower jaw can slide forward,
which puts his teeth in a more anatomically correct position for chewing, and
this promotes a more even wear pattern.
Drinking plenty of
water helps keep
the GI tract happily