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Horse won't eat hay

From: Kate

I recently bought a gelding.  He is between 15-20 years old.  He was stabled at a barn with no pasture and only would eat Alfalfa hay. Before this he lived in a pasture basically as a semi-retired lesson horse.  Since I have had him I feed him a combination of regular horse feed and Equine Senoir.  He will not eat hay.  I have tried alfalfa.  I have tried good regular hay.  He is usually out to pasture every day (unless the weather is bad).  He is underweight.  I am worried about the fact that he will not eat hay.  Should I feed him more feed?  I am worried he is starting to "feel his oats".  Any advice would be wonderful.  BTW the web site is great.

Thanks, Kate

Hi Kate! Read my answer to Joey in this week's HORSE-SENSE -- it sounds as though you and she have quite a lot in common!

I'm going to give you much the same advice: get the vet out to look at your horse, and see whether you can find out why your horse won't eat hay. Your gelding may have a problem with his teeth, tongue, or another part of his mouth or throat -- have him checked! Since it's time for spring shots anyway, just be sure that the vet floats your horse's teeth (properly, using a speculum) if floating is needed. Horses often don't eat their hay, not because they don't WANT the hay, but because they CAN'T eat it. Your horse may do better with hay cubes than with stemmy hay; if he can't eat hay cubes, you may need to feed him alfalfa pellets.

If it turns out that your horse truly can't or won't eat ANY hay under ANY circumstances, you'll have to provide him with the necessary roughage in some way. Grazing is excellent, but you'll need something else later, when there isn't much grass (at the end of the summer, or when winter sets in). Talk to your vet about this. Beet pulp is a traditional source of roughage, but you'll need advice about how to store it and feed it. If beet pulp gets damp in storage, it will ferment and become disgusting, and the horses won't go near it. ;-)   Beet pulp comes in two forms: pelleted and shredded. Pelleted beet pulp must be soaked before it's given to the horse; shredded beet pulp doesn't expand as much, and may be fed dry -- but get your vet's advice in any case.

You might want to add some oil to his daily feed, as a way to increase his caloric intake without challenging his digestive system. A cup of corn or other vegetable oil poured over grain or pellets is usually very acceptable to horses.


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