Me First

Can you tell this post is about feeding horses? 

Changing members in a herd always changes the herd dynamics and politics. This is never more evident than at feeding time! Even in my herd of two, a new routine had to be installed, so that the pony gets no more than she needs, while Dream gets every pound he requires.

Our winters are long and include more than a third of the year with snow cover. Due to this, we split the hay feedings into four times per day during these months.

Dreamport requires about 28-32 pounds of hay forage per day; Ginger’s needs hover around 8! They live together in an in-and-out barn enclosed by pasture. As you can see, my challenge is to get 20 more pounds of hay a day into Dreamer than Ginger. To further complicate things, Ginger is lead mare out there. If I were to just dump the hay out there, she would get way overweight while Dream became lean.

Added to this is my new education about
slow-feeder hay feeding.
I like it for many reasons:

- It is a perfect solution for the boredom that comes from living aboard snow for weeks on end, where a horse cannot even forage the land.

- Slow feeding hay feeders deliver the hay a bite at a time, similar to if the horse were grazing.

- I can hang them low enough to be safe, yet still have my horse’s head down enough for good health (drainage) while he is eating.

- Best of all, the calories are going slowly into my horses, and I feel the calories are being metabolized almost as they eat them: warmth for their bodies, and again, controlling weight for the pony.

- Perhaps most important, slow feeder hay feeders deliver the food in a way that mimics what the horse’s mind and gut are naturally made for: mouthfuls at a time which they work for.

Horses with ulcers and insulin resistance do better with slow feeding, and stable vices diminish or disappear. They also produce less dust than breaking open flakes of hay, and there is hardly any hay waste at all. Equus magazine, Sizing Up Slow Feeders, November 2011, Issue 410.

I bought a few Shires small-hole hay nets. They are secured on the bottom when I hang them. My horses have gotten pretty handy at using them.

In the morning, Dream gets locked in his stall with a stall guard where he and the pony still see each other. He gets 10 lbs. of loose hay, and she gets a loose pound to “take the edge off” any first-feed-of-the-day hunger she may have. Then she gets the rest of her breakfast hay in a slow feeder. This keeps her busy while Dream needs 2-3 hours to eat his hay, and then he is turned loose for a sun-nap with Ginger!

Later in the afternoon there is a snack time when both horses get hay in slow feeder nets. This keeps them happily busy during those nap-to-dinner hours.

The dinner routine is the same as the breakfast routine. Then, 2 slow feeder hay nets are hung up for the long, dark night.

I think some people just fill up their slow feeders and the horses can feed 24/7. I haven’t tried this because I am afraid the pony will gain weight and Dream will drop pounds. For equal horses, it sounds wonderful.

There is a hay net comparison chart here at paddockparadise. There are also some tips at the bottom of the chart. Some sellers are catching on to the idea and are making slow hay feeders available.

Me First , 1933
Upset, Whisk Broom, Broomstick, Bend Or
Sadly, this filly died in 1935. 

p.s. I got invited on a date!
Scott and I are going to see
War Horse
tomorrow night!

update: Winter Storm warning! No driving at night...guess I'll have to wait for the DVD.


Dreaming said...

I've been using NibbleNets on and off for a few years. This fall I started using two of them for morning and evening feeds. I have the smaller opening for one horse and slightly larger for the other guy. It really slows them down. They would scarf up 6-8 pounds of hay in about an hour... now it takes at least 2 hours, sometimes more. Pippin chewed through one of the straps and I repaired it. He must like that corner because he's messed with the repair a few times. But, that is the older next, it is now approaching its third year, so I can't complain. It really has lasted a long time!

Thanks for the link to the chart. That was interesting to read.

Enjoy the movie... don't forget some kleenix! The tears are happy tears, though!

lmel said...

I don't think I could bear to see it in the movies. The previews have me tears! Have a great time:)

allhorsestuff said...

Great info here!!
You got her down pat, I do believe. I love hearing of such great knowlege, being used for the horses!

I love my stable owner. She bought all the horses "Porta Grazers" last year...they are a slow feeder and really make the boredom disspear for most our horses. They play with them and knock them over and set them back up- move them. It did help to train them how to use them though...only putting one flake in at a time...they learn to rotate and rip the hay, as they would longer grass.

Loved hearing from you on e-mail!

allhorsestuff said...

Have fun at WAR HORSE! A Date, cool!
I have to wait till the DVD comes out or on-Demand...I can't even watch the preview with out sobbing!

Once Upon an Equine said...

My Percheron is a very easy keeper, and alpha mare in my herd of two. They have access to each others stalls. If I feed loose hay, my Percheron would gobble up all of hers fast, then go into the foster filly's stall and gobble up all of hers. Slow feeding has really helped. I use Porta-Grazers and small hole hay nets and both horses get their fill and the hay lasts so much longer. The horses even seem to be self-regulating some.

I'm glad it is working for Dreamer and Ginger.

I enjoyed War Horse very much. Hope you do too. Have fun on your date!

Allison said...

Thank you for the info in these comments that can help others who might be considering slow feeders!

p.s. I did NOT get to see War Horse (winter storm warning)... I think it's going to take a DVD now. :-(

BUT! I never worry about how much I cry at the movies~ it's my boys at home who might jive me, though. :-)