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Feeding schedule change

From: Lisa

Hi Jessica:

I am new in the horse world and am learning so much from you! Thank you!

My question is a neighbor is giving us a 12 year old quarter horse mare that she has had for 10 years. She feeds this horse 4 times daily. Will it have a huge effect on the health of the horse if I change that?

Thanks for your time.

Hi Lisa! You're very welcome. This is an excellent question. A lot of horses are fed twice daily, but that is not the best routine for horse health. Your neighbour's four-times-daily feed scheduled is much better. If you can keep it up, by all means do so. Horses have very delicate digestive systems, and are designed to consume small amounts of roughage around the clock. The common practice of feeding hay and concentrates twice a day is strictly a matter of owner (or stable owner) convenience, but it's stressful to the horses. Instead of their feed being spread out over the whole 24 hours, it comes in two big meals; horses have to eat more than is good for them at a single time, and then go hungry for many hours between feedings.

If you board your mare, try to arrange things so that your mare has full-time access to grass and/or hay. With this kind of management, she will probably do very well. If that's not possible, try to arrange for her to be given more frequent, smaller feedings instead of two large feeds each day. She will be healthier for it, and even if that arrangement costs a little more, you'll probably save money in the long term, because your mare won't be as susceptible to colic, ulcers, and other problems that tend to arise when horses are managed for our convenience rather than for their own optimum health. If your mare lives on your own property, everything will be simpler - you can feed her in the early morning, the late morning, the middle of the afternoon, and the late evening. It doesn't take very long to toss a flake of hay to a horse, and it's a grand investment in the horse's health.


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