What makes a horse food-oriented? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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What makes a horse food-oriented?

I wasn't sure where to put this... it's behavior-related, so I figured training was okay.


My gelding really doesn't care about food and will only eat as much as he needs to stay in good weight. He's not interested in treats.

My mare, on the other hand, is extremely food-oriented (more so than any horse I've known). She might even be worse than my beagles.

What exactly makes a horse food-oriented or not food-oriented?
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post #2 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 12:03 PM
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Most horses I know are food orientated, Nelson is very much so - he's always gaga over treats and loves to get his mouth full of grass any chance he gets and stuffs his face in his roundbale. I can bring him into the barn and stick him in his stall for a moment before we tack up, and he'll go strait to his feeder to check for grain.

I rarely see a horse that isn't - but we have to ask ourselves what the horse is in the first place. They are animals who are built to be grazers, that's what they are because of how they are made up. Their stomaches and digestive tracts require food to be in them 24/7.

If you go into the wild, you'll see them constantly grazing - because that is what they need to do, to remain healthy. Because it is how they are constructed.

So now we look at domesticated horses. Their systems are no different from those in the Wild, nor their ancestors. They still have to have food in their systems 24/7 to keep their stomaches and digestive tracts healthy, too keep them regulated.

Domesticated horses are kept in unnatural environments. Paddocks, stalls, only turned out for so many hours a day and so on and so on. Environments where they cannot keep food in their systems like they need to, so of course food is going to be their #1 priority - they are doing only what they are made to do.

So, now because we see horses kept in paddocks and stalls and area's where they cannot get access to food 24/7 for their stomaches and digestive tracts, where they have to rely on us humans to throw them food - we now find issues that are killers of our horses. Colic, ulcers and the list goes on.

That is where the responsibility falls on us. We have to ensure that we can meet our horses needs - by giving them forrage 24/7 or pasture.

Throwing them a flake of hay here and there is not sufficient to keep your horses digestive system healthy.

Nelson is the way he is, is because he was starved twice in his life.

The first one, his 3rd owner went to college and left him at the barn they were boarding at. She stopped paying her bills so Nelson got neglected and put him up for sale. That's where the 4th owner came and took him to her place and fixed him up.

Then the 2nd time was with me. I boarded him at a small facility, large farm but a private place. He was out on a brown pasture due to the drought we had last summer, and when he was fed his breakfast and dinner, the other horses would chase him off his bucket and eat it for him - so he lost 300lbs. I took alot of pictures, packed him up and moved him to where we are now, where I was able to have control of his feeding.

Don't get me wrong, there are horses who can handle being in a stall overnight with no hay infront of them, where other horses cannot handle it - like Nelson, being a high strung TB who stresses over little things. Then there is a QH next to him in the barn who is rolly polly and content with just a flake for the night and who is quiet as all and doesn't make a peep when put in her stall.

So it depends on the horse as well.

Anyways, that's why I think horses are food orientated, because it is how they are built. Their main concern is when are they going to be fed. Regular schedule, keep it the same, that way they are on a daily routine where they know when they get fed and when they know it isn't time yet.

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post #3 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 02:45 PM
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I agree with MIE. Frankly I never met a horse yet (given it's healthy and not too old) not interested in food.

I'd also add starvation makes horses very greedy about the food even when they reach a normal weight. My paint who had a month of very limited feeding (several old corn-on-cobs and couple flakes of straw-looking hay twice/day in stall) before I got her was VERY greedy about grain and hay. Up to the point I thought she was pregnant (she couldn't stop eating all that free choice hay they had in a boarding facility). Now after 4+ years with me she's much more mellow about it, but still I can see my qh grazing but she still stands by the hay (although she's a slow eater too).
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 02:53 PM Thread Starter
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Hm, okay. I didn't mean to say that some are uninterested in food... just that some are a LOT more interested than others. That's my experience, anyway.
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by CloudsMystique View Post
Hm, okay. I didn't mean to say that some are uninterested in food... just that some are a LOT more interested than others. That's my experience, anyway.
How do you qualify being more "interested" or less? Just curious.
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 03:07 PM
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I think its a genetic thing for the most part. Toby is obsessed with food (as is with most of his breed) while Apache eats fine, but doesn't do backflips just because food is placed in front of him.

All I pay my psychiatrist is cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day!

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post #7 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by kitten_Val View Post
How do you qualify being more "interested" or less? Just curious.
Using my two as an example...

Mare learns tricks almost instantly and bends over backwards for treats / Gelding is plenty smart enough to learn tricks, but has no interest in doing them for "just" a treat.

Mare eats the entire time she's in the pasture and doesn't roll or run around or socialize / Gelding stands near mare or gate or paddock and spends more time socializing, rolling, and playing than eating.

When I fall off of mare because of a spook on the trail, she immediately starts eating no matter how afraid she is / Gelding just stands there, or trots home if he's really scared.

If mare is allowed to sniff noses with a horse with grass or hay in its mouth, she'll ignore the horse and try to grab its food / Gelding is much more interested in socializing and ignores food.

Mare is very well-trained to ground tie, and I usually leave her standing outside the tack room while I get her ready... if something scares her she won't move, but if she sees someone feeding their horse a carrot at the end of the barn, she'll walk off / Gelding doesn't even seem to notice when people are giving the other horses treats.

Now, my gelding doesn't completely ignore food. He nickers when he sees his dinner coming, and he'll gladly stand there and eat grass for an hour when I hand-graze him... he just seems to view it as something to do when he's either starving or doesn't have anything better to do, whereas food is always my mare's top priority.

When she was first started under saddle and went on trail rides, she was horrible about grabbing food whenever she could. I trained her to eat only when I scratch her crest, and she doesn't grab it anymore. But if I stop her in a field of grass and make her stand there, her head will start to go down an inch or two... and then she snaps it back up... and again, and again. It's obvious that she's just dying to eat and can barely control herself.

My gelding doesn't even like to eat on the trail. He's too nervous and focused on what's going on around him. He doesn't want to put his head down, especially if all the other horses have theirs down and aren't watching out for him.

So that's what I mean. Maybe my gelding is just weird? Haha.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 06:58 PM
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Interesting post MIEventer, and to a point I agree with you, but I also believe horses are much like humans - they each have their own personalities, they're also going to have their food preferences.

Case in point, my Arab mare is exactly like your gelding CM. She enjoys treats, but she won't do tricks for them. She won't maul you for food, she'll perk her ears and politely place her nose at your hand until you open it up. It's easy to distract her from food. She grabs bites on the trail and is allowed to do so because she has learned how to eat and walk at the same time - if she misses a bite, she doesn't falter, she just waits for the next long piece of grass to come by. Lately she's been nibbling more on rides since she doesn't have the ability to graze, but she has NEVER stopped to eat, so I have never minded.

However, Shay-las moms horse Dove is a food PIG. She has spent 11 years disciplining that horse for eating on trail rides, and she just doesn't care - the minute you stop paying attention she will stop dead or dive for some juicy food. The catch? She's spent virtually her whole life grazing in a pasture. She's never had to "fight for her food" or "wait for her food". She's a colossal pig when it comes to grain or treats, going as far as to be rude and knock someone down if you have grain, and you'd have to beat her to make her focus if she hears someone mixing grain. And yet she's never been fed grain, she only gets the occasional apple or carrot after a ride, and she has grass and hay 24/7.

Some horses, like people, are just pigs I think! My 3 year old filly is the same - it's RIDICULOUS how rude she is about food. And she's also spent most of her time in a lush green pasture for summer, and with hay 24/7 in winter. She did however used to get big grain feedings twice a day before I bought her, and doesn't now, so maybe that has something to do with it?

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #9 of 11 Old 07-04-2010, 07:51 PM
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^ Exactly - It is all individual personality or upbringing.

Latte is a funny one - She isn't grass oriented as in she won't try to eat wheni'm handling her, and if she is and I ask for her attention, she gives it in an instant. It's such a breath of fresh air after Bundy!

However - She was kept in a paddock with about 5 other horses and grain was just thrown on the ground. Hence, any kind of hard feed she bolts down so fast I am really afraid she is going to choke. She literally can hardly breathe with the amount of food she has in her mouth - Her cheeks ate entirely full and she is still bolting it down. I've only hard fed her twice because of this - I'm going to have to feed her predominantly hay and maybe feed her handful by handful if she ever needs anything more (Unlikely though, the amount of body fat she has, lol).

Bundy is different all together - he is a huge grass pig. Leading, riding, anything - he will always try for that bit of grass if your attention slips. I can't let him eat ever with the bridle on or it becomes a battle, and he is hugely strong and dull to the halter when trying to graze. He is polite and waits for his feed now - But only after having a few 'come to Jesus' meetings. However, he doesn't bolt his food - He is the alpha in our herd and is confident of getting his share, so he takes his time.

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post #10 of 11 Old 07-05-2010, 12:37 AM
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I understand what you mean by not to interested in food. My mare Rena WILL NOT eat erself silly, she eats until she is full,Then she doesnt eat a grain more. She doesnt do backflips over treats either. but she is a healthy eater, just not crazy about food. But my aunts mare Gabby search DIRT for an oat, but trust me, she has never been starved or anything. shes FAT, and she LOVES food. haha, i think its just the horses personality, because Gabby is like a black hole when it comes to food (but she has never had colic) and Rena has a tiny stomach it seems. they both are a healthy weight (besides Gabby being a little tubby, har-har) but i think its just personality, Gabby's half-sister isnt that food oriented, neither is her half-brother, just Gabby. haha.

If there are no horses in heaven... im not going.
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