Timing Is Everything: How Often Should Horses Be Fed? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Timing Is Everything: How Often Should Horses Be Fed?

Horses evolved to spend the majority of their waking hours grazing. The equine stomach is designed to secrete stomach acid constantly, and the acid is buffered by saliva, which is produced when the horse chews, reports The Horse. 

When a horse is fed meals at specific times (often two per day in many boarding barns), he may go for multiple hours with nothing in his stomach to buffer the acid that's being produced.

A management program in which a horse is fed multiple forage meals per day is ideal, as near-continuous eating reduces the risk of ulcers and colic. A horse that is fed more often is less likely to engage in stereotypic behaviors like cribbing and weaving, as well. 

A horse's stomach is almost completely empty about six hours after he is fed, and nearly all fiber passes through the horse completely within 12 hours. With this timeframe in mind, the ideal time to feed horses is in five-hour intervals, which can be difficult to do very late at night or early in the morning. 

To keep some forage in the stomach, it's recommended that horses are fed breakfast no more than 12 hours after being fed dinner. Two possible feeding schedules are 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. or 6 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., with a possible fourth meal given at 10 p.m. Both of these schedules would ensure the horse has forage available in intervals no more than 8 hours apart. 

Another option, especially if feeding in this way isn't feasible, is to try to stretch the horse's hay meals as much as possible. Slow-feed haynets are a popular option, as are automatic feeders that can offer hay pellets when people aren't available to feed. 

Read more at The Horse

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