Free choice hay? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Free choice hay?

I moved my horse to a barn that has turn out but it's in a dirt pasture with absolutely no grazing available unless I bring him to the levee and hand graze. The barn gives 2 flakes of hay a day and it looks to be a medium quality grass hay. I would like to offer my horse free choice hay for the times he's in his stall so he has something to 'graze' on and would go with a decent grass hay.

I told the owner, a horse owner of 20+ years, about my idea and she told me 'oh that's a terrible idea! You could make him sick!' She then told me that I would be wasting my money because he's not underweight. I'm confused... if they can eat all the grass they want when it's available, why would hay be any different? It's not as if I'm going to be offering straight alfalfa! Is it really terrible to offer him free choice hay in his stall? Is it going to make him sick? And if it's so terrible, why do I see people put huge round bales out in pasture for those horses to have something to graze on when they're on dirt or the grass is dead?

I'd love to move him somewhere else that has GRASS pasture turn out, but at the moment the closest place I can afford is an hour away.
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post #2 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 12:50 PM
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Free choice grass hay is fine. I've never heard that too much grass hay will make a horse sick unless there is some sort of medical condition involved.

If you want him to have something to "graze" on all day I would suggest a slow feed net. That will slow him down enough that he is not really getting more, it just takes longer to eat. My guys have them and instead of sucking down a bale in an hour they nibble on it all day long so they are never bored.
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post #3 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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That's what I figured. I have to use a net for him because if it's on the floor he'll scatter it around, pee on it, and then refuse to touch it. I was thinking I could get a few nets and hang them around the stall to encourage him to move around instead of just standing in one spot.
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post #4 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 12:58 PM
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Generally speaking, a horse needs to consume 1.5% - 2% of it's body weight in forage every day.

Forage means grass and/or hay.

Feeding roundbales is a sticky wickett and not-at-all efficient when only one horse is involved.

If the horse is a fairly easy keeper, it might stand there and eat until it's hooves are pointing skyward. I have one like that --- he is insulin resistant.

I wouldn't free-feed hay in the stall either, because of the potential mess and waste. "Free-feed" to me means you want to put enough in there to last him until you visit the following day.

That being said, two flakes of hay per day is not enough for any horse, unless it's a Mini. Further to that the flakes need to be weighed. I was really surprised at the huge difference in the weight of flakes when I had to start weighing them for my metabolic horses.

If I were in your position and not able to move, I would get a couple small square bales of quality mixed grass hay, stand on a scale to weigh each flake and feed him about 18 pounds daily<---twice a day would be best so he doesn't waste it.

I wouldn't dream of just feeding two flakes a day. Especially if he's getting bagged feed; which he doesn't need because it doesn't sound like he's in hard training for anything at the moment. They are grazing animals by nature and need the forage moving thru their digestive system.

A ration balancer with a vit/min supplement would serve him much better. Things like Nutrena's Empower; Purina's Enrich 32; etc.

Please check his manure

It's ok if his manure is brown (as opposed to olive) because he isn't on pasture. It should have a glistening moistness to it and while it should be a solid conisistency, it shouldn't be hard and it shouldn't be dry.

Sorry, I know that's gross but it sounds as if he's not getting near enough forage in him, even if the B.O. Says his weight is fine. Again, I'd be wondering what and how much is going into his feed pan

Back to the round bales --- we never fed them when I was a kid on the farm --- not even to the dairy or beef cattle. Grass was free-range but hay was controlled.

I don't believe in roundbales for my horses as there's four and they can't eat that bale fast enough before it turns moldy, and/or someone that goes "squeek squeek" and has foot-long tail moves into it.

I throw hay off the small squares, every morning, according to their needs.

Amazingly, I still have green pasture. They walk right past the 20 lbs I throw (for four), wander 22 acres all day, then come in around 3:00 for water and head to the hay piles. They aren't hungry and there's no point wasting large amounts of hay. Just flush that money right down the terlet

Oops, others answered before I got this typed:)

Ditto the slow-feeder hay net as long as can be safely hung so he won't get caught in it. One of my IR horses has to have his hay that way.

Hope this helps
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Last edited by walkinthewalk; 02-06-2012 at 01:02 PM.
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post #5 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 01:16 PM
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I definitely think that your horse should be getting more than two flakes! I give my horse as much hay as she will eat, if she's not eating that much I cut her back a little. Even if they are an easy keeper they still need to eat a good amount of hay just maybe little to no grain or a ration balancer!
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post #6 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 01:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Walk, it definitely does help. I'm not happy with the amount of hay they're feeding the horses, period. If the quality was higher, I could see dropping the amount a bit, but it's just grass hay. I was feeding him about 15-20 pounds of coastal burmuda a day before I moved him to this barn and his poo was very healthy looking. I don't pick the stalls at this barn (planning on doing self care in March) so I can't really comment on what his poo looks like now.

I'm going to order some hay nets today. The local store sells them for almost $20! It's outrageous.
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post #7 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 01:32 PM
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I wonder how big/heavy the flakes are that this barn can get away with feeding only 2 a day. Is it really two flakes a day or two flakes a feeding? That makes a difference too. Do what you think is best for YOUR horse.
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post #8 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 01:56 PM Thread Starter
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It's two flakes a DAY (per the lease I signed and what I see them putting in the hay racks) and I'd guess that they weigh about 3-4 pounds each. I don't have a scale, but I'm very good at judging weight when I'm holding it in my hands. I was feeding him about 6 flakes a day per day before I moved him. That's around 10 pounds per feeding give or take if the hay fell apart when I pulled it out of the barrel.
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post #9 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 02:09 PM
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And of course other people have posted almost the same thing as this: but oh well. :)

2 flakes a DAy is not nearly enough for an average sized horse (maybe for a mini ,it would be okay.)

You should also feed by weight and not volume ( as I have had BO's tell me that my horse was getting 3 flakes and the flakes were basically see through!)

. Usually the ideal would be 2-3% forage for the amount of bodyweight of the horse (depending on work level)

For a 1200lb horse 24-36 lbs of dry matter daily ( that would be including grain)

FreeChoice hay it is not a terrible idea at all. Free choice grass hay will not make him sick (unless it is moldy/bad quality or he is not getting adequate water). It is actually beneficial.

I feed my horse free choice (so as he has a bit leftover in the morning or by next feeding) of grass hay.

HECK sometimes it has a bit of alfalfa mixed in.

If he is not being ridden or only ridden lightly that is usually all they need to maintain weight. You can always add a multi-vitamin or ration balancer ( as suggested)

I feed TC lite ( it doesn't have a lot of protein and is one of the lowest NSC amongst grain and RB's)

He is getting enough protein via the hay I give. No need for added protein for my horse.

If they are not willing to make accommodations I would be finding another facility, the risk of ulcers and colic are not worth it to me. IMHO.
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*Member of the Quality Free-Choice Hay/Pasture Feeders Society* *In Favor of Turning horses out as long as Possible*

Last edited by Royal Pine Buck; 02-06-2012 at 02:16 PM.
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post #10 of 28 Old 02-06-2012, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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They have offered to feed him more hay, but I'd rather just do it myself so that I know what he's getting. I thought that it'd be nice to have full board, and all the other horses look just fine, but I'm anxious to get him back on self care like before. I enjoy taking care of him.
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