Learn About Horses – When NOT to Feed a Horse

Horse Grazing Naturally

Horse grazing

I love to learn about horses and the best place to really learn about horses is by observing them in the wild.  In the wild horses graze free range all day when they are not traveling.   Horses also travel up to 20 miles a day when they are in their natural habitat.  We have domesticated our horses and taken away those possibilities.  Because of this, a lot of horses have issues around food.

We generally feed our horses twice a day one big lump amount of food.  Horses get very anxious around feeding and the reason is because they are fed unnaturally.  There really isn’t too much we can do about that, but we can be sure we don’t feed (pun intended) into that behavior and add any extra stress.

When NOT to feed a horse:

  • Right after a work out and not for the reason you think.  Horses shouldn’t be fed right after a workout even if they have been properly cooled down because they will want to rush through the training session in order to get fed.  The focus will be on food and not the rider.
  • Right before a training session.  Horses need to be able to finish their meal and relax and enjoy it.  A horse will resent you if you take him away from his meal and don’t allow him to finish all of his hay.  He should also be able to digest his food before a work out.
  • As a training reward.  Feeding treats just isn’t what professional horse trainers do and the reason is, it just doesn’t work.  Horses stress out way too much about food for this to be a good way to train a horse.  Pat the horse on the neck and he will be focused on the reward coming from you and not food.

There are 24 hours in a day, and maybe you spend one to three of those hours working with your horse.  That means you can feed him any of those other 21 hours.  Ideally you would have a large area outside for your horse to graze for a few hours a day.

 What you can do to help your horse have a healthy relationship with food:

  • Give him access to lots of quality hay.  If hay is garbage, your horse is going to waste a lot of it.
  • Feed your horse three times per day if possible instead of two, even if that second feeding is just hay.
  • Work your horse often and hard enough.  If he has a job to do and food isn’t his only focus he will be a much happier horse.

By following these simple tips you too can have a well-adjusted horse.

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About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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