5 Tips for Drama-Free Feeding

Anyone who has ever observed horse behavior knows that while horses may be herd animals, they are also driven by their places within the herd. There is always a herd leader, and usually a second-in-command, continuing all the way down the line to the very bottom horse. Once the pecking order is established, herd relations are usually pretty benign, but everything can get a little interesting when food comes into play.

It’s in every horse owner’s best interest to keep the friction to a minimum, lest any of the horses get hurt or denied dinner. Here are five tips for working with natural horse behavior to keep feeding times drama-free.

Feed From the Top Down

If there’s any number one rule of feeding horses, it’s to always feed the lead horse first. Horse behavior being what it is, the herd will probably take matters into their own hands if you try to do anything else, but you can avoid a lot of conflict if you just accept that you need to feed according to the pecking order.

Provide Multiple Feeders

A favorite feeding-time game is to play “musical buckets,” where the lead horse leaves his bucket and pushes the next horse off theirs, who in turn goes to the next horse’s bucket, and so on. The same goes for feeders, troughs, or even hay piles. To prevent the bottom horse being left without food, ensure there are at least as many feeders as there are horses. If you feed with large feeders or round bales, ensure that there is room for horses to eat on all sides with some separation from the others if necessary.

Feed to the Bottom Horse’s Needs

Feeding according to weight is tricky when you’re feeding in a herd situation. Instead of attempting to feed each horse according to their weight, you will need to feed enough to keep the bottom horse at a good weight. If the bottom horse loses weight, increase the feed for the entire herd, even if the others don’t need it. If the bottom horse is still struggling while all the other horses are overweight, you may need to remove the bottom horse from the herd situation so you can feed both him and the rest of the herd more appropriate amounts.

Create a Routine

Much of horse behavior is determined by routine and habit, which means that the best way to create a smooth, drama-free feeding time each day is for the horses to know what to expect. If the horses all know the order in which they get fed, you’ll most likely find each one waiting at their bucket. It’ll save a lot of jockeying for position, therefore, to have a well-established feeding routine.

Feed Separately When Possible

There are ways to minimize the drama during feeding time in a herd, but horse behavior being what it is, the absolute best option is always to feed horses separately when possible. Feeding separately allows you to keep faster eaters from running the slower eaters off their food, and prevents the vast majority of the conflicts between horses. It also enables you to monitor each horse’s weight more closely, and provide for individual dietary needs.

Feeding horses separately also better enables you to use feed that is specifically designed to make your life easier, such as complete pelleted feeds. Contact Sacate Pellet Mills today to find out more about our complete feeds and how they can help you make feeding drama-freeĀ at your barn.