Consider whether something could have changed to alter his eating habits, such as…
- dental issues
- increased workload
Then, once these more serious culprits have been ruled out, consider whether you’ve made any changes to his ration – anything from mixing a powdered supplement or unpalatable medication into his meals, or swapping part of his feed.
The most suitable solution will vary according to your horse’s particular circumstances, and it’s always best to speak to an experienced nutritionist for individual advice. However, here are seven top tips to get him tucking back in in no time…
- Feed palatable fibre sources
To maintain a healthy digestive system, forage should form the greatest part of your horse’s diet. Good quality hay or haylage will reduce the amount of hard feed he needs, and for horses who dislike the hay offered, using different hay, haylage or chopped grass can be helpful. For horses that can’t chew effectively, pre-ground fibre in the form of high-quality fibre cubes or a high-fibre mash can replace long fibre, too.
- Keep bucket feeds small
Splitting the daily ration into multiple smaller meals is better than feeding one large ration. Nutrient-dense products are ideal, as they’ll avoid over-facing a fussy eater. Basing feeds on a good quality feed balancer improves the utilisation of the rest of his diet, helping keep meal sizes small.
- Avoid powdered supplements and additives.
If you know your horse can be picky about what’s in his bowl, when searching for specialised supplements, such as those for hooves, joints or pre- and probiotics, opt for a pelleted multi-supplement or a feed balancer that provides these ingredients in a palatable form.
- Feed according to preference.
Some horses prefer certain tastes or textures, such as a mash rather than a cube. Where possible, try to work around this to improve his intake.
- Add flavourings or appetite stimulants.
If palatability is a problem despite using tasty feeds, try adding different ingredients or flavours such as apples, carrots, mint, peppermint oil or molasses. Additives containing vitamin B12 can also help to stimulate appetite.
- Feed medication in a separate bucket.
If medication is needed, feed it separately to avoid putting your horse off his feed. It can be mixed into a voluminous and palatable mash, or a sweeter feed like a mix if appropriate.
- Make changes gradually.
Make alterations to feed or conserved forage gradually to help your horse adjust to different tastes. This also allows his digestive system, and the microflora within it, time to adapt.
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