Free-Choice Hay: Will Horses Self-Regulate Their Intake?  - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Free-Choice Hay: Will Horses Self-Regulate Their Intake? 

Though offering free-choice hay to horses most closely resembles how horses were designed to eat, it can be anxiety-inducing to see just how much one horse can ingest. The majority of horses will self-regulate their hay intake after a few weeks of being offered free-choice hay, reports The Horse, but there are always some horses that continue to gorge themselves. 

Excessive weight gain is of significant concern for horses that are at risk of metabolic disorders, , so ongoing scrutiny of the horse's body condition – about every two weeks —  is necessary. 

A few things can be done to encourage a horse to self-regulate his hay intake. 

  1. Test the hay.
    Hay that is free fed should have less nutritional value, which will help prevent horses from gaining weight no matter how much hay they ingest. 
  2. Use a slow feeder.
    Slow-feed hay nets come in multiple styles, including small-holed nets and rigid plastic. Designed to slow hay consumption, they also prevent a lot of wasted hay. These slow feeders can also  be placed strategically to encourage a horse to move and burn calories. 
  3. Keep the hay supply coming.
    Horses often ingest a lot of hay initially as they are accustomed to specific meal times and they anticipate an end to the meal. Once a horse understands that hay is constantly available, he will often self-regulate the amount he eats. 

Read more at The Horse. 

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