Feeding and Herd Dynamics

Every horse is different, and their feeding program needs to match their individual needs. Sometimes we can’t put all the hard keepers in one group and the easy keepers in the other, so how do we taylor a feeding program to one without effecting the other?

Feeding Hay

#1 Using the Herd Hierarchy to Your Advantage: 

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Mac is a 10 year old gelding, and a hard keeper, meaning he needs a larger amount of feed to maintain a normal body weight than the average horse. Maggie is a 5 year old mare, who is a fairly easy keeper, she needs a lot less feed than Mac to maintain a proper weight. So you would think that they wouldn’t be able to live together well, as Maggie could end up getting more hay or stealing Mac’s feed and not leaving enough for him. But this is not the case. They work well together because Mac is very dominant and Maggie is very submissive, so Mac is always the one to get the last of the hay, and never loses any of his feed to Maggie. Another thing that makes them a good match is Maggie eats very slowly, and Mac is more of a gobbler. So the horse that needs more, gets more, and vice versa.

On the other hand there is Koshka and Mocha, they have a very similar dynamic, Koshka needs more, and Mocha less, but in this case although Koshka is dominant with other horses, she sees Mocha as her baby, because Mocha was very young when they where first introduced. So rather than chasing her from the feed, she happily shares. So in this case something needs to change.

#2 Temporary Separation for Meals: 

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As you can see in the picture below we have started temporarily separating Koshka and Mocha during meal time. Giving Koshka 2 extra flakes of hay (Loose so she eats faster) and Mocha gets 3 flakes in the hay bag (so she eats slower) As it only take Koshka about an hour to finish the 2 flakes, and in that time Mocha has only had time to eat about 1 flake (she actually needs to lose weight still) Once Koshka is finished the wire is removed and Koshka will finish eating the rest of what’s in the hay bag with Mocha. (Of course a stall could be used for this method, but this way the horses can still see, hear and smell each other)

Feeding Concentrate Feeds

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In example #1 concentrate feeds can just be put in bowls, and the horses will not switch of fight because the hierarchy is clear. In example #2 things get a little more complicated. Kosher gets 1lb Fibre O Plus (calories, fat, protein), 1/2lbs Enhancer (vitamins) and 1/4lbs of Flax Appeal (extra calories) twice a day. But Mocha only gets 3/4lbs of Enhancer at the same meal times. So either someone has to stand there and make sure Mocha doesn’t go and eat with Koshka, or they need to be separated, the latter is much more simple and accommodates Kosha’s need for more hay as well.

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