Encouragement for picky horses
My mom asked me to post this on her behalf, being that she's not the most computer savvy lady and I am not sure how to advise her - I wanted to get tips from any of you who may have had this same issue.
Apparently her 2 horses have more or less stopped eating their hay, or at least they're eating it very sparingly. This is a new load, and I guess it's not as sweet as the last was (at least this is the hypothesis). There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with its as far as dust, mold, etc. and the grass blade size, color and texture holds consistent with the last load (I don't live in the same state as my mom and cannot look at the hay myself, or observe the horses' behavior). She says that they are just being super picky, and that they'll pick through everything and leave the rest all spread out and they won't touch it again.
I haven't ever really had this issue. Apparently they've been doing this for a week or so. Thoughts? Suggestions?
What is the horses workload and what is the weather?
We've had a few nice days here and our horses have slowed down on eating hay vs when it was cold and they needed the calories to stay warm.
It could be any number of things ranging from severe weather swings and they are demonstrating some mild colic issues to, they don't like the taste of this new load of hay and they're going on strike.
As with your own situation, anyone sitting at the keyboard is speculating.
I can say I have four horses and when I bring in a load of hay that cost $7/small square, is 99.9% weed-free but doesn't smell like green tea, it's a safe bet nobody in the barn will want to eat it.
I was only able to buy 2/3rd's of an entire season of hay in Spring, 2012. It was fantastic sweet smelling hay. Anything I have gotten in since that time, is deemed abusive to my four's taste palettes' :-(
Time of year and/or time of day the hay was cut can change the taste, so can whatever fertilizer was used on the field, and even how long it had to lay in the field to cure before it was baled.
I have tried to resolve my picky eaters problems by feeding them timothy pellets which help in the forage department but not the chewing department which horses need to do.
My only thought for your mom is to watch them closely for any signs of losing weight and/or colic.
While I am leaning toward the fact they are being too fussy, if they start dropping too much weight or show any signs of colic, she may want to call the vet immediately.
Colic indicators could be only one or any number of these:
1. Laying down, deer fashion a lot more than is normal.
2. Biting/knipping at their sides, especially back in the lower flank area.
2.1 Lying down AND biting their sides.
3. Not drinking enough water.
4. Not passing the daily normal amount of manure she is sued to seeing from them.
5. Droppng their heads and remaining that way as if depressed or distressed. Some will even stretch their neck a little.
It is very frustrating to spend your last dollar on the best hay you can find, only to smilingly hand it out and your thanks is four sets of big eyes with ears forward saying "is THIS the best you can do? Weeeee donnnnnt liiiiiike ittttt":-(:?:-(
I've had something similar happen to me. 12 horses. None of them picky, tho, but used to good hay( to me good hay has a variety of grass-and herb-species).
I bought hay for them, 6 month's supply, picture perfect. Green, bales all nicely uniformly baled, smelled super aromatic. I was happy. Im feeding it the first time.....and NOBODY even sampled it. They sniffed it and walked away from it. All 12 of them. I was crying. Literally. Come to find out it was cut on a pasture next to a creek, slightly acidic soil.
I also had horses refuse hay when baled off a field where sheep had been. My hay guy told me that happens a lot.
But I have to say, I'd rather let the horses decide what they want to eat. They have their instinct. We lost ours.
The horses are in AZ, weather really doesn't fluctuate much, and there hasn't been any real drastic changes as far as I'm aware.
walkinthewalk, I too am leaning more towards the idea that they are also just being fussy. I tend to want to think "when they get hungry enough, they'll eat it." I'll tell her to keep an eye on them. She hasn't said anything about a change in behavior or weight loss, though it's only been a week or so. I am actually going down to visit her at the end of this week, so maybe I can assess better myself.
They do get some alfalfa pellets in the AM, my mom was considering soaking the pellets and trying to spread it over their hay to encourage them to eat. I don't really know how well that would work, I think they'd just eat everything with the pellets on it and leave the rest.
I've also seen horses just plain getting tired of a certain kind of hay. Which is actually natural...they usually eat what they prefer at the moment and pick certain herbs for eventual minerals. Our way of growing hay, killing every weed there is, offers them one type of plant. Pretty sorry, actually. That's why I offer two different grass hays, a 3way grain hay and alfalfa. And I can assure you, they have their preferences...one day they eat up all the orchard, leave the timothy, nibble a little on the 3 way and clean up the alfalfa. Next day 3 mouthfuls of alfalfa then off to finish the 3 way and neither grass hay is being touched.
If your mom got a new batch of the same type, there might as well be something wrong with it. I wouldn't "make" them eat it.
Don't panic. I learned this in '85--makes me sound like an oldey to write it that way =b --that your horse will refuse less palatable hay if they think that you are holding out on the good stuff. It's like kids that won't eat their oatmeal bc they think you have more pop tarts!
Listen, Custer's horses were eating birch bark on one campaign bc there wasn't anything else to eat. I suggest buying a couple of bags of alfalfa cubes or pellets and topdress the feed. They will gobble that up, but still be hungry. When they are hungry enough, they WILL eat the new hay. Start with about 1/3 of their feeding with the alfalfa, then gradually reduce--I use my hand to measure, one less "handful" per day. Unless your Vet tells you it's toxic, they will learn to eat it. Also, do NOT offer them any new, green and sweeter hay this year until they've cleaned up the old, unless you intend to use the older later this year as bedding. Hope this helps! =D
Get a slow feed net to put the hay in and leave it out there until it's gone. Mine did the same thing on the last load b/c it was different and a little more stemmy, but they ended up eating it. They realized it was eat it or starve lol
Cinch Chix has nice nets af all sizes. I have 3 of the nets that hold a whole square bale.
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