One of the most frustrating parts of being a dedicated horse owner and lover is when your pride and joy starts to "push food around on the plate" or become a picky/fussy eater.
There are a few different reasons your horse may be giving you a hard time when it’s time to chow down, but regardless of the reason, it can be quite the headache.
We’ve gathered some tips and tricks for dealing with a horse that is a picky eater, so you can make sure your horse stops pushing around their expensive grain and supplements.
Rule Out Injury, Illness, Or Dental Trouble
The most common reasons for most horses to start becoming picky and refusing to eat is injury, illness, or dental trouble.
Your horse may experience pain eating because of poor dental hygiene, inflammation or infection of the gums, an abscess in the mouth, or even a damaged oesophagus.
Refusing to eat or drink can also be a sign of Choke, an illness which causes extreme amounts of pain in the horse’s throat.
It is also important to consider colic when you see that your horse has refused to eat. It’s always best to catch colic before it progresses.
If you notice that your horse stops eating their food, immediately inform your veterinarian and request for them to come out and do a thorough examination on your horse. Your veterinarian will determine if your horse has stopped eating their food for any physical reasons.
Eliminate Group Feeding
Some barns feed their horses their separate buckets of grain all in one common area, often times a pasture.
If your horse has displayed signs of disinterest in eating and is currently being fed in close contact with other horses, he or she may be experiencing stress from feeling like their food may be stolen by the other horses.
To determine if this is the issue, isolate your horse away from the other horses at feeding time and encourage them to eat.
If you find that they have no trouble eating the entirety of their meal away from other horses, it might be best for you to arrange for them to be stalled for their mealtimes, or even simply brought to a separate area to ensure that they will not feel any stress when attempting to enjoy their meal.
Add Water To Grain Buckets
There are multiple benefits to adding a bit of water to a horse’s grain.
The main benefit is that it aids in hydration, and it also helps prevent colic, as it aids in digestion and keeping the food from becoming impacted as it makes its way through the horse’s digestive system.
When it comes to picky eaters, adding water to a bucket of grain can help mix the flavors together, making it hard for the horse to be picky about the flavors of certain grains or supplements. Consider this situation a win-win!
Strategize Feeding Times
If you have noticed that your horse picks around certain supplements because they don’t like the taste, it may be best to only add supplements into the grain when they are hungriest.
The first grain of the day is a great opportunity to squeeze in the supplements, as they are often so hungry in the morning that they have no trouble gobbling down their first meal of the day. When they have had time during the day to munch on hay in their stalls, or grass in the pasture, they may be more inclined to nudge things around in their grain bucket and eat things selectively.
Of course, everything we do is with our horse’s best interests in mind. Follow the tips and tricks you’ve learned here to get them back on track.
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