If you’re a novice when it comes to looking after horses, there are plenty of niche terms to come to grips with that are important to understand. One of these is the term ‘trickle feeder’, used when referring to a horse’s diet, but what exactly does this mean and why is it important to know the differences in a horse’s feeding requirements?
The Daily Graze
Horses are natural grazing animals, which is what the term ‘trickle feeder’ refers to. They spend much of their time during the day browsing and grazing, chewing as they go, and have evolved to primarily digest fibre. As trickle feeders, horses need to chew throughout the day, usually for between 16-18 hours a day, and this will make up a large part of their overall diet. Now whilst this is a natural habit that horses partake in and have for centuries, there are times that their nutrition needs to be supplemented to help with their workload and to perform at their best. This is why most horse feed will enhance their diet and ensure essential vitamins and nutrients are not missed, especially if forage is poor quality or not substantial enough to provide the energy and nutrients they require.
Horses are herbivores . And so have evolved to eat small amounts but almost continusouly. , This is because horses have small stomachs that don’t stretch or expand to accommodate large meals.. If a horse is kept in a stable for long periods, it can impact the amount of time they get to graze and can negatively impact their behaviour. Having as much free-roam time as possible is essential to their good health and if supplemented properly through their feed, your horse will be much calmer and easier to get along with.
Diets and Supplements
Whilst all horses are trickle feeders, there are still differences in dietary requirements between types of horse that are important to understand. Naturally, their diet includes a variety of grasses as well as various herbs and woody plants. The age of the grass will also vary from fresh to older growth. When looking into horse feed, it’s important to keep the ingredients close to their natural needs, meaning high in fibre and low in sugar. Along with plenty of fresh water, providing a close to natural diet will ensure their long-term health, avoiding problems such as stomach ulcers and colic, as well as keeping their mental health happy and away from boredom.
The times when supplementary horse feeds are needed most are winter when grass quality is poor and for work. If a horse will be involved in high activity, it will need more energy to work efficiently,. Similarly iff a horse is underweight or is breeding or growing it is likely to mean they will need additional horse feed to support them. Even this increased energy requirement can be met using high quality fibre and oil if fed with a good source of vitamins and minerals. It’s always best to seek the advice of an equine nutritionist before making any changes to their diet as that way you can be sure you are feeding as sympathetically as possible – just as nature intended!