Horses, if able, would eat up to 16 hours a day! They keep eating in the dark often up until midnight when they will take a break until starting to eat again in the early hours of the morning.
They eat slowly and are selective. Using their lips they sift and choose plants, pushing those they don't want to one side. They nibble at the grass, chew and swallow a little at a time. This eating pattern has developed due to their comparatively small stomachs.
Horses are unable to be sick - no one knows why but they have a one way valve which prevents it - this means they have to be very careful not to eat something poisonous. Other animals are able to be sick to rid their bodies of any poisons consumed.
Horses like variety, grass is their main food but they also eat flowers, fruit, berries and nuts. They enjoy aquatic plants if they are near water and will paw at the ground to dig up roots if the ground is bare of other vegetation. They will also eat leaves if there is little grass - so in the wild horses have a varied diet.
This shows how unnatural it is to stable a horse with only limited access to food. Even if the food is of high nutritional quality it is consumed quickly and they spend the rest of the time with nothing to do. This is when bad habits and stereotypies develop. Horses are designed to eat low quality food, and lots of it. They are supposed to consume their nutritional needs through eating plenty of fibre over long periods.
Horses in the wild are also used to periods where food is scarce. Freezing cold when there is no goodness in the vegetation or drought when they would resort to pawing for roots or scraping bark. This is when the weight gained in the good times would be used to cope and survive.
I try to keep this in mind when looking after my horses, it can't be perfect because of the modern world, but little things can help.
I have written other blogs about feeding horses:
Have you seen last week's video 'Egg Count Day' on my You Tube channel.
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Until next time!