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uhlysse 03-28-2010 02:08 AM

Hay-less diet?
I've recently started riding at a rescue ranch with around 20 horses. I really like the instructor and I think I can learn a lot from her! Her style of teaching is really nice and I've improved a lot already after only 2 lessons from her. However, something concerns me. The owner of the ranch doesn't feed the horses hay. They only eat grain. Now some of the horses have eating disorders where their food has to be made into a mush or whatever, but most of the others seem like perfectly healthy(albeit old) animals.

They are kept in pipe corrals with no access to grass. They are fed only grain. This is concerning me. I was under the impression that everyone fed their horses a hay based diet. I've never seen anything other than that! I really enjoy this place, but I'm not sure if I feel comfortable riding somewhere where the horses aren't being taken care of properly. I feel bad saying that, however. The owner is a super nice lady who has owned horses for decades and I don't want to question how she cares for her horses, as they all appear to be in good health, but this just doesn't sit right with me.

What do you guys think?

trailhorserider 03-28-2010 02:23 AM

Are you sure she just isn't feeding something that looks like grain to you, but is actually made of ground hay?

For instance, there are all types of senior feeds (and even adult horse feeds) that are tiny pellets about the size of grain, but they are actually made up of ground hay with grain and other nutrients in it. But they are still hay based.

That would be my guess as to what is going on.

I have never heard of feeding JUST grain, and I think it would be very likely impossible to have healthy horses that way unless they also had access to pasture.

Maybe you should just ask the lady, since she seems nice and you like her?

I bet she is feeding a senior feed because it helps horses that are old and have trouble chewing keep their weight on. :-)

uhlysse 03-28-2010 02:27 AM

That's definitely possible! They had a wishlist on the board that said each week they use 77 bags of pellets(or grain...I can't remember which one it had written), 7 bags of senior feed, and 1 bale of alfalfa.

I want to ask my trainer about it, as I have no way of contacting the owner, but I wanted to see what you guys thought first. So even if they are hay based pellets, which I'm sure they are, it's alright for that to be the only thing the horses are eating? I've never owned a horse, but I was always under the impression that horses needed to forage on hay for a good part of the day to be physically and mentally healthy.

Thanks so much for your help! This has been stressing me out for a bit...

sandy2u1 03-28-2010 02:37 AM


I've never owned a horse, but I was always under the impression that horses needed to forage on hay for a good part of the day to be physically and mentally healthy.

That is what I thought also. I am under the impression that horses need to 'graze' a better part of the day. Hay or grass that is. It has always been my understanding that the horses digestive system require that they eat often. It is my understanding that they do need it to keep there digestive systems working properly and to avoid colic. The only time I don't give my horse hay is when there is lots of green grass for him to munch on. Even in the summer when there is a drought on and the grass isn't good, I give him hay so that he always has something to munch on.

trailhorserider 03-28-2010 02:44 AM

The 77 bags of pellets are their hay, just in a ground-up, pelleted form. :-)

Senior feed will be hay-based too, but includes other nutrients selected to help senior horses.

I think wether or not you feed hay or just a pelleted diet is a matter of personal preference. The advantages of the pellets are consistency and convenience (sometimes it is hard to find good hay). But the disadvantages of pellets are that the horses eat it quicker and have less bulk in their digestive tract. And where I am at, they are more expensive than hay (not sure if it is like that everywhere).

I have heard that horses can choke on pellets easier than hay, and I kind of like the idea of them having more bulk in their digestive tract that the hay provides, and it takes them longer to eat. Plus hay is cheaper, so I like to feed hay. But if you have horses that have trouble chewing and keeping on weight, pellets can really help them. I prefer to soak them for old guys that can't hardly chew.

uhlysse 03-28-2010 02:49 AM

Oh, alrighty. So I shouldn't worry about it?

ohmyitschelle 03-28-2010 03:26 AM

I personally don't seem the harm in you asking her about the feeding regime at the barn. Most people, especially in a learning situation, are only more than happy to explain why they feed in a particular manner.

Although I believe feeding hay in its dominant form is the best way for a horse's diet, I do know of several horses all for different reasons who get fed their forage with their meals. However they do have access to fields to graze over the day and night as well.

Just politely ask, in a way of learning more about feeding. I can't see why this person wouldn't answer your questions, considering she is instructing you. And there's definitely more to learn about horses, than just riding haha.

Good luck.

akoch 03-28-2010 11:03 AM

I would certainly worry about my horses not having hay!
My horses always have hay. It is the most important and most natural part of their diet.
Hay is important for a multitude of reasons:
  • it keeps the horses busy
  • horses are trickle feeders. They should eat or nibble for up to 16-18 hours a day. They should never be without food for longer than 4 hours.
  • Their stomachs produce stomach acids 24/7. The bicarbonate in the saliva neutralizes these acids. Horses produce more saliva when chewing hay.
  • Horses on hay based diets have less risk of getting stomach ulcers, colic, stable vices like cribbing...
I use small mesh haynets to slow them down and they are nibbling all day! This works great!:-)

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